Skip to main content

Full text of "Their Eyes Were Watching God Full Book PDF"

See other formats


zora neale hurston 

""fifths,, 

Hi LJ C 1 O 

inLirc 

EYES WERE 
WATCHING GOD 



WITH A FOREWORD BY 
MARY HELEN WASHINGTON 
AND AN AFTERWORD BY 
HENRY LOUIS GATES, JR. 



PERENNIAL mK CLASSICS 



A hardcover edition of this book was originally published by I. B. Lippincott, Inc 

their eyjes were WATCHING god. Copyright €> 1937 by Zora Neale Hurston. 
Renewed 1965 by John C. Hurston and Joe! Hurston. Foreword copyright © 1990 
by Mary Helen Washington. Afterword, Selected Bibliography, and Chronology 
copyright O 1990 by Henry Ix>uis Gales, Jr. All rights reserved. Printed in the 
United States of America. No pare of this book may be used or reproduced in any 
manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quota- 
tions embodied in critical articles and reviews. For information address 
Harper<>>!lins Publishers, Inc., 10 East 53rd Street, New York, N.Y. 10022. 

First Perennial Library edition published 1990. 

First Perennial Classics edition published 1998, Perennial (Classics are published by 
HaiperPerermial, a division of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. 



Library of Congress Cataioging-in- Publication Data 

Hurston, Zora Neale, 

v lTicir eyes were watching God : a novel / Zora Neale Hurston ; with a 
foreword by Mary Helen Washington and an afterword by Henry Louis 
Gates, Jn— 1st Perennial Classics ed. 
p. cm. 
ISBN 0-06-093)41-8 
Includes bibliographical references. 

Is Afro-American women — psychology -Fiction. 2. Self-realization — 
Fiction. 3. Psychological action. L Title, 
PS3515.U789T5 1999 

813'.52-dc21 98-45543 



98 99 00 01 02 ❖/rrd-h 109 * 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 



To Henry Allen Moe 



Table of Contents 

Foreword by Mary Helen Washington ix 

Their Eyes Were Watching God I 

Afterword by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. 195 

Selected Bibliography 207 

Chronology 211 



Foreword 




In 1987, the fiftieth anniversary of the first publication 0/ Their 
Eyes Were Watehing God, the University of Illinois Press inserted 
a banner in the lower right-hand corner of the cover of their 
anniversary reprint edition: "1987/50th Anniversary— STILL A 
BESTSELLER!" The hack cover, using a quote from the Satur- 
day Review by Doris Grumbach, proclaimed Their Eyes, "the 
finest black novel of its time" and "one of the finest of all time." 
Zora Neale Hurston would have been shocked and pleased, I 
believe, at this stunning reversal in the reception of her second 
novel, which for nearly thirty years after its first publication was 
out of print, largely unknown and unread, and dismissed by the 
male literary establishment in subde and not so subtle ways- One 
white reviewer in 1937 praised the novel in the Saturday Review 
as a "rich and racy love story, if somewhat awkward," but had 
difficulty believing that such a town as Eatonville, "inhabited and 
governed entirely by Negroes," could be real. 

Black male critics were much harsher in their assessments of 
the novel. From the beginning of her career, Hurston was 
severely criticized for not writing fiction in the protest tradition. 
Sterling Brown said in 1936 of her earlier book Mules and Men 
that it was not bitter enough, that it did not depict the harsher 
side of black life in the South, that Hurston made black southern 



x Xfr Foreword 

life appear easygoing and carefree. Alain Locke, dean of black 
scholars and critics during the Harlem Renaissance, wrote in his 
yearly review of the literature for Opportunity magazine that 
Hurston's Their Eyes was simply out of step with the more serious 
trends of the times. When, he asks, will Hurston stop creating 
"these pseudo-primitives whom the reading public still loves to 
laugh with, weep over, and envy," and "come to grips with the 
motive fiction and social document fiction?" The most damaging 
critique of all came from the most well-known and influential 
black writer of the day, Richard Wright. Writing for the leftist 
magazine New Masses, Wright excoriated Their Eyes as a novel 
that did for literature what the minstrel shows did for theater, 
that is, make white folks laugh. The novel, he said, "carries no 
theme, no message, no thought," but exploited those "quaint" 
aspects of Negro life that satisfied the tastes of a white audience. 
By the end of the forties, a decade dominated by Wright and by 
the stormy fiction of social realism, the quieter voice of a woman 
searching for self-realization could not, or would not, be heard. 

Like most of my friends and colleagues who were teaching 
in the newly formed Black Studies departments in the late six- 
ties, I can still recall quite vividly my own discovery of Their 
Eyes. Somewhere around 1968, in one of the many thriving black 
bookstores in the country — this one, Vaughn's Book Store, was 
in Detroit—I came across the slender little paperback (bought 
for 75 <t) with a stylized portrait of Janie Crawford and Jody 
Starks on die cover — she pumping water at the well, her long 
hair cascading down her back, her head turned just slighdy in his 
direction with a look of longing and expectancy; he, standing at a 
distance in his fancy silk shirt and purple suspenders, his coat over 
one arm, his head cocked to one side, with the look that speaks 
to Janie of far horizons. 

What I loved immediately about this novel besides its high 



Foreword xi 



poetry and its female hero was its investment in black folk tradi- 
tions. Here, finally, was a woman on a quest for her own identity 
and, unlike so many other questing figures in black literature, her 
journey would take her, not away from, but deeper and deeper 
into blackness, the descent into the Everglades with its rich black 
soil, wild cane, and communal life representing immersion into 
black traditions. But for most black women readers discovering 
Their Eyes for the first time, what was most compelling was the 
figure of )anie Crawford — powerful, articulate, self-reliant, and 
radically different from any woman character they had ever 
before encountered in literature. Andrea Rushing, then an 
instructor in the Afro-American Studies Department at Harvard, 
remembers reading Their Eyes in a women's study group with 
Nellie McKay, Barbara Smith, and Gail Pemberton. "1 loved the 
language of this book," Rushing says, "but mostly I loved it 
because it was about a woman who wasn't pathetic, wasn't a 
tragic mulatto, who defied everything that was expected of her, 
who went off with a man without bothering to divorce die one 
she left and wasn't broken, crushed, and run down." 

The reaction of women all across the country who found 
diemselves so powerfully represented in a literary text was often 
direct and personal, janie and Tea Cake were talked about as 
though they were people the readers knew intimately Sheriey 
Anne Wiliiams remembers going down to a conference in Los 
Angeles in 1969 where the main speaker, Toni Cade Bambara, 
asked the women in the audience, "Are the sisters here ready for 
Tea Cake?" And Williams, remembering diat even Tea Cake had 
his flaws, responded, "Are the Tea Cakes of the world ready for 
us?" Williams taught Their Eyes for the first time at Cal State 
Fresno, in a migrant farming area where the students, like the char- 
acters m Their Eyes, were used to making their living from the laud. 
"For the first time^ Williams says, "they saw themselves in these 



xii jfiF Foreword 



characters and they saw their lives portrayed with joy," Rnshing's 
comment on the female as hero and Williams's story about the joy- 
ful portrayal of a culture together epitomize what critics would 
later see as the novel's unique contribution to black literature: it 
affirms black cultural traditions while revising them to empower 
black women- 

By 1971, TTtdr Eyes w%$ an underground phenomenon, sur- 
facing here and there, wherever there was a growing interest in 
African-American studies— and a black woman literature teacher 
Alice Walker was teaching the novel at Wellesley in the 1971-72 
school year when she discovered that Hunton was only a footnote 
in the scholarship, Reading in an essay by a white folkiorist that 
Hurston was buried in an unmarked grave, Walker decided that 
such a fete was an insult to Hurston and began her search for the 
grave to put a marker on it- In a personal essay, "In Search of Zora 
Nealc Hurston," written for Ms. magazine. Walker describes going 
to Florida and searching through waist-high weeds to find what 
she thought was Hurston's grave and laying on it a marker 
inscribed "Zora Neale Hurston/' A Genius of the South'/Novelist/ 
Folklorist/Anthropologist/1901-1960, , ' With that inscription 
and that essay, Walker ushered in a new era in the scholarship on 
Their Eyes Were Watching God, 

By 1975, Their Eyes, again out of print, was in such demand 
that a petition was circulated at the December 1975 convention of 
the Modern Language Association (MLA) to get the novel back 
into print, In that same year at a conference on minority literature 
held at Yale and directed by Michael Cooke, the few copies of Their 
Eyes that were available were circulated for two hours at a time to 
conference participants, many of whom were reading the novel for 
the first time. In March of 1977, when the MI A Commission on 
Minority Groups and the Study of Language and Literature pub- 
lished its first list of out of print books most in demand at a national 



Foreword ^B^ xiii 



lcvel > the program coordinator, Dexter Fisher, wrote: "Their Eyes 
Were Watching God is unanimously at the top of the list. " 

Between 1977 and 1979 the Zora Neale Hurston renais- 
sance was in Ml bloom. Robert Hemcnway's biography, Zora 
Neale Hurston: A Literary Biography, published in 1977, was a 
runaway bestseller at the December 1977 MIA convention. 
The new University of Illinois Press edition of "Their Eyes, pub- 
lished a year after the Hemenway biography in March of 1978, 
made the novel available on a steady and dependable basis for 
the next ten years. I Love Myself When I Am Laughing . . . And 
"Then Again When I Am Looking Mean and Impressive: A Zora 
Neale Hurston Reader, edited by Alice Walker, was published by 
the Feminist Press in 1979. Probably more than anything else, 
these three literary events made it possible for serious Hurston 
scholarship to emerge. 

But die event that for me truly marked the beginning of the 
third wave of critical attention to Their Eyes took place in Decern ber 
1979 at the MIA convention in San Francisco in a session apdy 
tided "Traditions and Their Transformatioas in Afro-American 
Letters " chaired by Robert Stepto of Yaie with John Callahan of 
Ixwis and Clark College and myself (then at the University of 
Detroit) as the two panelists. Despite the fact that the session was 
scheduled on Sunday morning > the last session of the entire con- 
vention, the room was packed and the audience unusually attentive. 
In his comments at the end of the session, Stepto raised the issue 
diat has become one of the most highly controversial and hody con- 
tested aspects of the novel, whether or not Janie is able to achieve 
her voice in Their Eyes. What concerned Stepto was the courtroom 
scene in which Janie is called on not only to preserve her own life 
and liberty but also to make the jury, as well as all of as who hear her 
tale, understand the meaning of her life with Tea Cake. Stepto 
found Janie curiously silent in this scene, with Hurston telling the 



xiv fjp Foreword 



story in omniscient third person so that we do not hear Janie 
speak — at least not in her own first-person voice. Stepto was quite 
convinced (and convincing) that the frame story in which Janie 
speaks to Pheoby creates only the illusion that Janie has found her 
voice, that Hurston's insistence on telling Janie's story in the third 
person undercuts her power as speaker. While the rest of us in the 
room struggled to find our voices, Alice Walker rose and claimed 
hers, insisting passionately that women did not have to speak when 
men thought they should, that they would choose when and where 
they wish to speak because while many women had found their own 
voices, they aiso knew when it was better not to use it. What was 
most remarkable about the energetic and at times heated discussion 
that followed Stepto's and Walker's remarks was the assumption of 
everyone in that room that Their Eyes was a shared text, that a novel 
that just ten years earlier was unknown and unavailable had entered 
into critical acceptance as perhaps the most widely known and the 
most privileged text in the African -American literary canon. 

That MLA session was important for another reason. Walker's 
defense of Janie's choice (actually Hurston's choice) to be silent in 
the crucial places in the novei turned out to be the earliest feminist 
reading of voice in Their Eyes, a reading that was later supporte d by 
many other Hnrston scholars. In a recent essay on Their Eyes, and 
the question of voice, Michael Awkward argues that Janie's voice at 
the end of the novel is a communal one, that when she tells Pheoby 
to tell her story ("You can tell *cm what Ah say if you wants to. Dat's 
just dc same as me 'cause mah tongue is in mah friend's mout") she 
is choosing a collective rather than an individual voice, demonstrat- 
ing her closeness to the collective spirit of the African-American oral 
tradition. Thad Davis agrees with this reading of voice, adding that 
while Janie is the teller of the tale, Pheoby is the bearer of the tale. 
Davis says that Janie's experimental life may not allow her to effect 
changes beyond what she causes in Pheoby's life; but Pheoby, 



Foreword xv 



standing within the traditional roic of women, is the one most 
suited to take the message back to the community. 

Although, like Stepto, I too am uncomfortable with the 
absence of Janie's voice in the courtroom scene, I think that silence 
reflects Hurston's discomfort with the model of the male hero who 
asserts himself through his powerful voice. When Hurston chose a 
female hero for the story she faced an interesting dilemma: the 
female presence was inherently a critique of the male-dominated 
folk culture and therefore could not be its heroic representative. 
When Janie says at die end of her story that "talkin* don't amount 
to much" if it's divorced from experiencc > she is testifying to the 
limitations of voice and critiquing the cultu re that celebrates orality 
to the exclusion of inner growth. Her final speech to Phcoby at the 
end of Their Eyes actually casts doubt on the relevance of oral speech 
and supports Alice Walker's claim that women's silence can be 
intentional and useftil: 



"Course, taikifi' don't amount tub uh hill uh beans when yuh 
can't do nothin' else . . . Pheoby, you got tuh go there tuh 
know there. Yo papa and yo mama and nobody else can't tell 
yuh and show yuh. Two things everybody's got tuh do nih 
theyselves. They got tuh go tuh God> and they got tuh find out 
about iivin* nih theyselves. 

The language of the men in Their Eyes is almost always 
divorced from any kind of interiority, and the men are rarely shown 
in the process of growth. Their talking is either a game or a 
method of exerting power. Janie's life is about the experience of 
relationships, and while Jody and Tea Cake and all the other talk- 
ing men are essentially static characters, Janie and Pheoby pay 
closer attention to their own inner life — to experience — because it 
is the site for growth. 



xvi jfip Foreword 



If there is anything the outpouring of scholarship on Their Eyes 
teaches us, it is that this is a rich and complicated text and that each 
generation of readers will bring something new to our under- 
standing of it. If we were protective of this text and unwilling to 
subject it to literary analysis during the first years of its rebirth, that 
was because it was a beloved text for those of us who discovered in 
it something of our own experiences, our own language, our own 
history In 1989, 1 find myself asking new questions about Their 
Eyes-Questions about Hurston's ambivalence toward her female 
protagonist, about its uncritical depiction of violence toward 
women, about the ways in which Janie's voice is dominated by 
men even in passages that arc about her own inner growth. In 
Their Eyes, Hurston has not given us an unambiguously heroic 
female character She puts Janie on the track of autonomy, self- 
realization, and independence, but she also places Janie in the posi- 
tion of romantic heroine as the object of Tea Cake's quest, at times 
so subordinate to the magnificent presence of Tea Cake that even 
her interior life reveals more about him than about her What Their 
Eyes shows us is a woman writer struggling with the problem of the 
questing hero as woman and the difficulties in 1937 of giving a 
woman character such power and such daring. 

Because Their Eyes has been in print continuously since 1978, 
it has become available each year to thousands of new readers. It is 
taught in colleges all over the country, and its availability and pop- 
ularity have generated two decades of the highest level of scholar- 
ship. But I want to remember the history that nurtured this text 
intx) rebirth, especially the collective spirit of the sixties and seven- 
ties that galvanized us into political action to retrieve the lost works 
of black women writers. There is a lovely symmetry between text 
and context in the case of Their Eyes: as Their Eyes affirms and eel- 
ebrates black culture it reflects that same affirmation of black cul- 
ture that rekindled interest in the text; Janie telling her story to a 



Foreword xvii 



listening woman friend, Pheoby, suggests to me ali those women 
readers who discovered their own tale in Janie's story and passed it 
on from one to another; and certainly, as the novel represents a 
woman redefining and revising a male-dominated canon, these 
readers have, like Janie, made their voices heard in the world of let- 
ters> revising the canon while asserting their proper place in it. 



Mary Helen Washington 



1 




Ships at a distance have every manH wish on board. For some they 
come in with the tide. For others they sail forever on the horizon, 
never out of sigh t, never landing until the Watcher turns his eyes 
away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death by Time. That is 
the life of men. 

Now, women forget all those things they don't want to remember, 
and remember everything they don't want to forget. The dream is the 
truth. Then they act and do things accordingly. 

So the beginning of this was a woman and she had come back 
from burying the dead. Not the dead of sick and ailing with fiiends at 
the pillow and the feet. She had come back from the sodden and the 
bloated; the sudden dead, their eyes flung wide open in judgment. 

The people all saw her come because it was sundown. The 
sun was gone, but he had left his footprints in the sky. It was the 
time for sitting on porches beside the road. It was the time to 
hear things and talk. These sitters had been tonguelcss, earless, 
eyeless conveniences all day long. Mules and other brutes had 
occupied their skins. But now, the sun and the bossman were 
gone, so the skins felt powerM and human. They became lords 
of sounds and lesser things. They passed nations through their 
mouths. They sat in judgment. 



2 Jfr Zora Ncale Humozi 



Seeing the woman as she was made them remember the envy 
they had stored up from other times. So they chewed up the back 
parts of their minds and swallowed with relish. They made burning 
statements with questions, and killing tools out of laughs. It was 
mass cruelty, A mood come alive. Words walking without masters; 
walking altogether like harmony in a song, 

"What she doin coming back here in dem overhalis? Can't 
she find no dress to put on? — Where's dat blue satin dress she left 
here in? — Where all dat money her husband took and died and 
left her? — What dat ole forty year ole 'oman doin' wid her hair 
swingin 1 down her back lak some young gal? — Where she left dat 
young lad of a boy she went off here wid?— Thought she was 
going to marry? — Where he left her? — What he done wid all her 
money? — Betcha he off wid some gal so young she ain't even got 
no hairs— why she don't stay in her class? — " 

When she got to where they were she turned her face on the 
bander log and spoke. They scrambled a noisy "good evenm'" 
and left their mouths setting open and their ears full of hope. Her 
speech was pleasant enough, but she kept walking straight on to 
her gate. The porch couldn't talk for looking. 

The men noticed her firm buttocks like she had grape fruits 
in her hip pockets; the great rope of black hair swinging to her 
waist and unraveling in the wineflike a plume; then her pugna- 
cious breasts trying to bore holes in her shirt. They, the men, 
were saving with the mind what they lost with the eye. The 
women took the faded shirt and muddy overalls and laid them 
away for remembrance. I, was a weapon Us. her s^ength and 
if it turned out of no significance, still it was a hope that she 
might fell to their level some day. 

But nobody moved, nobody spoke, nobody even thought to 
swallow spit until after her gate slammed behind her. 

Pear! Stone opened her mouth and laughed real hard because she 



Their Eyes Were Watching God Jfr 3 

didn't know what else to do. She fell all over Mrs. Sumpkins while she 
laughed. Mrs. Sumpkins snorted violently and sucked her teeth. 

"Humph! Tall let her worry yuh. You ain't like me. Ah ain't 
got her to study 'bout. If she ain't got manners enough to stop 
and let folks know how she been rnakin' out, let her g'wan!" 

"She ain't even worth taikin' after," Luiu Moss drawled 
through her nose. "She sits high, but she looks low. Dat's what 
All say 'bout dese ole women runnin' after young boys." 

Pheoby Watson hitched her rocking chair forward before she 
spoke. "Weil, nobody don't know if it's anything to tell or not 
Me, Aii'm her best friend, and Ah don't know." 

"Maybe us don't know into things lak you do, but we all 
know how she went 'way from here and us sho seen her come 
back. 'Tain't no use in your tryin' to cloak no ole woman lak 
Janie Starks, Pheoby, friend or no friend." 

"At dat she ain't so ole as some of y'all dat's talking." 

"She's way past forty to my knowledge, Pheoby." 

"No more'n forty at de outside." 

"She's 'way too old for a boy like Tea Cake." 

"Tea Cake ain't been no boy for some time. He's round 
thirty his ownself." 

"Don't keer what it was, she could stop and say a few words 
with us. She act like we done done something to her," Pearl 
Stone complained. "She de one been doin' wrong." 

"You mean, you mad 'cause she didn't stop and tell us all her 
business. Anyhow, what you ever know her to do so bad as y'all 
make out? The worst thing Ah ever knowed her to do was taking 
a few years offa her age and dat ain't never harmed nobody. Y'all 
makes me tired. De way you taikin' you'd think de folks in dis 
town didn't do nothin' in de bed 'cept praise de Lawd. You have 
to 'scusc me, 'cause Ah'm bound to go take her some supper." 
Pheoby stood up sharply. 



4 4fe» Zora Neaie Hurston 



"Don't mind us," Lulu smiled, "just go right ahead, us can 
ruindyo' house for you till you git back. Mah supper is done. You 
bettah go see how she feel, You kin let de rest of us know." 

"Lawd," Pearl agreed, "Ah done scorched-up dat lil meat 
and bread too long to talk about. Ah kin stay Vay from home 
long as Ah please. Mah husband ain^t fcssy." 

"Oh, er, Pheoby, if youse ready to go, Ah could walk over dere 
wid you," Mrs, Sumpkins volunteered, "It's sort of duskin' down 
dark, De booger man might ketch yuh," 

"Naw, Ah thank yuh, Nothin' couldn't ketch me dese few steps 
Ah'm goin\ Anyhow mah husband tell me say no fim; class booger 
would have me, If she got anything to tell yuh, you'll hear it." 

Pheoby hurried on off widi a covered bowl in her hands. She 
left the porch pelting her back with unasked questions. They 
hoped the answers were cruel and strange, When she arrived at 
the place, Pheoby Watson didn't go in by the front gate and 
down the palm walk to the front door. She walked around the 
fence corner and went in the intimate gate with her heaping plate 
of mulatto rice, Janie must be round that side. 

She found her sitting on the steps of the back porch with the 
lamps all filled and the chimneys cleaned, 

"Hello, Janie, how you comin'?" 

"Aw, pretty good> Ah'm trykf to soak some uh de tiredness 
and de dirt outa mah feet," She laughed a little, 

"Ah see you is, Gal, you sho looks good. You looks like youse 
yo' own daughter, w They both laughed, "Even wid dem overhalls 
on, you shows yo' womanhood," 

"G'wan! G'wan! You must think Ah brought yuh something 
When Ah ain't brought home a thing but mahself." 

"Dat's a gracious plenty, Yo' friends wouldn't want nothin' 
better,* 

"Ah takes dat flattery oflfa you> Pheoby, 'cause Ah know it's 



Their Eyes Were Watching God Vtr 5 



from dc heart" Janie extended her hand. "Good Lawd, Pheoby! 
ain't you never goin' tuh gimme dat til rations you brought me? Ah 
ain't had a thing on mah stomach today exceptin' mah hand. " They 
both laughed easily. "Give it here and have a seat." 

"Ah knowed you'd be hongry. No time to be huntin' stove 
wood after dark. Mah mulatto rice ain't so good dis time. Not 
enough bacon grease, but Ah reckon it'll kill hongry." 

"Ah'll tell you in a minute," Janie said, lifting the cover. "Gal, 
it's too good! you switches a mean fenny round in a kitchen." 

"Aw, dat ain't much to eat, Janie. But Ah'm liable to have 
something sho nuff good tomorrow, 'cause you done come." 

Janie ate heartily and said nothing. The varicolored cloud dust 
that the sun had stirred up in the sky was settling by slow degrees. 

"Here, Pheoby, take yo' ole plate. Ah ain't got a bit of use for 
a empty dish. Dat grub sho come in handy." 

Pheoby laughed at her friend's rough joke. "Youse just as 
crazy as you ever was." 

"Hand me dat wash-rag on dat chair by you, honey. Lemmc 
scrub mah feet." She took the cloth and rubbed vigorously. 
Laughter came to her from the big road. 

"Well, Ah see Mouth -Almighty is still sittin' in de same place. 
And Ah reckon they got me up in they mouth now. " 

"Yes indeed. You know if you pass some people and don't 
speak tuh suit 'em dey got tuh go way back in yo' life and see 
whut you ever done. They know mo' 'bout yuh than you do yo' 
self. An envious heart makes a treacherous ear. They done 'heard' 
'bout you just what they hope done happened." 

"If God don't think no mo' 'bout 'em then Ah do, they's a 
lost ball in de high grass." 

"Ah hears what they say 'cause they just will collect round mah 
porch 'cause it's on de big road. Mah husband git so sick of 'cm 
sometime he makes 'em all git for home." 



6 ^Sp Zora Ncaie Hurston 



"Sam is right too. They just wearin' out yo' sittin' chairs." 

"Yeah, Sarn say most of 'em goes to church so they'll be sure to 
rise in Judgment. Dat's de day dat every secret is s'posed to be made 
known. They wants to be there and hear it aU? 

"Sam is too crazy! You can't stop laughtn' when youse round 
him." 

"Uuh hunh. He says he aims to be there hisself so he can find 
out who stole his corn-cob pipe." 

"Pheoby, dat Sam of your'n just won't quit! Crazy thing!" 

"Most of desc zigaboos is so het up over yo' business till they 
liable to hurry theyself to Judgment to find out about you if they 
don't soon know. You better make haste and tell 'em 'bout you 
and Tea Cake gittin' married, and if he taken all yo' money and 
went off wid some young gal, and where at he is now and where 
at is all yo' clothes dat you got to come back here in overhalls." 

"Ah don't mean to bother wid tellin' 'em nothin\ Pheoby. 
'Tain't worth de trouble. You can tell 'em what Ah say if you wants 
to. Dat's just de same as me 'cause mah tongue is in mah friend's 
mouf." 

"If you so desire Ah '11 tell 'em what you tell me to tell 'em." 

"To start off wid, people like dem wastes up too much time 
puttin' they mouf on things they don't know nothin' aboiit. Now 
they got to look into me loving Tea Cake and see whether it was 
done right or not! They don't know if life is a mess of corn-meal 
dumplings, and if love is a bed-quilt!" 

"So long as they get a name to gnaw on tiiey don't care whose 
it is, and what about, 'specially if they can make it sound like evil." 

"If they wants to see and know, why they don't come kiss and 
be kissed? Ah could then sit down and tell 'em things. All been a 
delegate to de big 'ssociation of life. Yessuh! De Grand Lodge, de 
big convention of livin' is just where Ah been dis year and a half y all 
ain't seen me." 



Their Eyes Were Watching God &r 7 



They sat there in the fresh young darkness close together. 
Pheoby eager to feel and do through Jank, but hating to show her 
zest for fear it might be thought mere curiosity, Janic full of that 
oldest human longing — self revelation, Pheoby held her tongue for 
a long tirne> but she couldn't help moving her feet, So Janie spoke, 

"They don't need to worry about me and my overhalls long 
as Ah still got nine hundred dollars in de bank, Tea Cake got me 
into wearing 'em — following behind him, Tea Cake ain't wasted 
up no money of mine, and he ain't left me for no young gal, nei- 
ther. He give me every consolation in de world, He'd tell 'em so 
too, if he was here, If he wasn't gone," 

Pheoby dilated all over with eagerness, "Tea Cake gone?" 

"Yeah, Pheoby, Tea Cake is gone, And dat's de only reason 
you sec me back here — cause Ah ain't got nothing to make me 
happy no more where Ah was at, Down in the Everglades there, 
down on the muck." 

"It's hard for me to understand what you mean, de way you 
tell it. And then again Ah'm hard of understandin' at times," 

"Naw, 'tain't nothin' lak you might think, So 'tain't no use in 
me telling you somethin' unless Ah give you de understandin' to 
go 'long wid it, Unless you see de far, a mink skin ain't no differ- 
ent from a coon hide, Ix>oka heah, Pheoby, is Sam waitin' on you 
for his supper?" 

"It's all ready and waitin', If he ain't got sense enough to eat 
it, dat's his hard luck," 

"Well then, we can set right where we is and talk, Ah got the 
house all opened up to let dis breeze get a little catchin'. 

"Pheoby, we been kissin' -friends for twenty years, so Ah depend 
on you for a good thought, And Ah'm talking to you from dat 
standpoint," 

Time makes everything old so die kissing, young darkness 
became a monstropolous old thing while Janie talked. 



Janie saw her life like a great tree in leaf with the things suffered^ 
things enjoyed, things done and undone. Dawn and doom was in 
the branches. 

"Ah know exactly what Ah got to tell yuh, but it's hard to 
know where to start at. 

"Ah ain't never seen mah papa. And Ah didn't know 'im if 
Ah did. Mah mama neither. She was gone from round dere long 
before Ah wuz big enough tuh know. Mah grandma raised me. 
Mah grandma and de white folks she worked wid. She had a 
house out in de back -yard and dat's where Ah wuz born. They 
was quality white folks up dere in West Florida. Named Wash- 
burn. She had four gran'chiilun on de place and all of us played 
together and dat's how come Ah never called mah Grandma 
nothin' but Nanny, 'cause dat's what everybody on de place 
called her. Nanny used to ketch us in our devilment and lick every 
youngun on de place and Mis' Washburn did de same. Ah reckon 
dey never hit us ah lick amiss 'cause dem three boys and us two 
girls wuz pretty aggravating Ah speck. 

"Ah was wid dem white chiUun so much till Ah didn't know 
Ah wuzn't white till Ah was round six years old. Wouldn't have 
found it out then > but a man come long takin' pictures and with- 



Their Eyes Were Watching God <Qp 9 

out askin' anybody, Shelby, dat was de oldest boy, he told him to 
take us. Round a week later de man brought de picture for Mis' 
Washburn to see and pay him which she did, then give us all a 
good lickin\ 

"So when we looked at de picture and everybody got pointed 
out there wasn't nobody left except a real dark little girl with long 
hair standing by Eleanor. Dat's where Ah wuz s'posed to be, but 
Ah couldn't recognize dat dark chile as me. So Ah ast, 'where is 
me? Ah don't sec inc.' 

"Everybody laughed, even Mr. Washburn. Miss Nellie, de 
Mama of de chilhm who come back home after her husband 
dead, she pointed to de dark one and said, 'Dat's you, Alphabet, 
don't you know yo' ownsclfi' 

tt Dey all useter call me Alphabet 'cause so many people had 
done named me different names. Ah looked at de picture a long 
time and seen it was mah dress and mah hair so Ah said: 

U4 Aw, aw! Ah'm colored! 9 

u Den dey all laughed real hard. But before Ah seen de pic- 
ture Ah thought Ah wuz just like de rest. 

"Us lived dcre bavin' fan till de chiliun at school got to 
tcasin' me 'bout livin' in de white folks' back-yard. Dere wuz uh 
knotty head gal name Mayrelia dat usctcr git mad every rime she 
look at me. Mis' Washburn usetcr dress me up in all de clothes 
her gran'chiiiun didn't need no mo' which still wuz better'n 
whut de rest uh de colored chiliun had. And then she useter put 
hair ribbon on mah head fah me tuh wear. Dat useter rile 
Mayrelia uh lot. So she would pick at me all de time and put some 
others up tub do de same. They'd push me 'way from de ring 
plays and make out they couldn't play wid nobody dat lived on 
premises. Den they'd tell me not to be takin' on over mah looks 
'cause they mama told 'em 'bout de hound dawgs huntin' mah 
papa all night long. 'Bout Mr. Washburn and de sheriff puttin* de 



10 4Bp Zora Neak Humor* 



bloodhounds on de trail tuh ketch mah papa for whut he done 
tuh mah mama. Dey didn't tell about how he wiiz seen tryin' tuh 
git in touch wid mah mama later on so he could marry hen Naw> 
dey didn't talk dat part of it atalL Dey made it sound real bad so 
as tuh crumple mah feathers. None of *em didn't even remember 
whut his name wuz, but dey all knowed de bloodhound part by 
heart. Nanny didn't love tuh see me wid mah head hung down, 
so she figgered it would be mo' better ftih me if us had uh house. 
She got de land and everything and then Mis' Washburn helped 
out uh whole heap wid things." 

Pheoby's hungry listening helped Janie to tell her story. So 
she went on thinking back to her young years and explaining 
them to her friend in soft, easy phrases while all around the 
house, the night time put on flesh and blackness. 

She thought awhile and decided that her conscious life had 
commenced at Nanny's gate. On a late afternoon Nanny had 
called her to come inside the house because she had spied Janie 
letting Johnny Taylor kiss her over the gatepost. 

It was a spring afternoon in West Florida. Janie had spent 
most of the day under a blossoming pear tree in the back-yard. 
She had been spending every minute that she could steal from 
her chores under that tree for the last three days. That was to 
say, ever since the first tiny bloom had opened. It had called her 
to come and gaze on a mystery From barren brown stems to 
glistening leaf-buds; from the leaf-buds to snowy virginity of 
bloom. It stirred her tremendously. How? Why? It was like a 
flute song forgotten in another existence and remembered 
again. What? How? Why? This singing she heard that had noth- 
ing to do with her ears. The rose of the world was breathing out 
smell. It followed her through all her waking moments and 
caressed her in her sleep. It connected itself with other vaguely 
felt matters tiiat had struck her outside observation and buried 



Their Eyes Were Watching God ffr 11 

themselves in her flesh. Now they emerged and quested about 
her consciousness. 

She was stretched on her back beneath the pear tree soaking in 
the alto chant of the visiting bees, the gold of the sun and the pant- 
ing breath of the breeze when the inaudible voice of it all came to 
her T She saw a dust-bearing bee sink into the sanctum of a bloom; 
the thousand sister-calyxes arch to meet the love embrace and the 
ecstatic shiver of the tree from root to tiniest branch creaming in 
every blossom and frothing with delight. So this was a marriage! 
She had been summoned to behold a revelation. Then Janie felt a 
pain remorseless sweet that left her limp and languid. 

After a while she got up from where she was and went over the 
little garden field entire. She was seeking confirmation of the voice 
and vision, and everywhere she found and acknowledged answers, 
A personal answer for all other creations except herself. She felt an 
answer seeking her, but where? When? How? She found herself at 
the kitchen door and stumbled inside. In the air of the room were 
flics tumbling and singing, marrying and giving in marriage. When 
she reached the narrow hallway she was reminded that her grand- 
mother was home with a sick headache. She was lying across the 
bed asleep so Janic tipped on out of the front door, Oh to be a pear 
tree — any tree in bloom! With kissing bees singing of the begin- 
ning of the world! She was sixteen. She had glossy leaves and 
bursting buds and she wanted to struggle with life but it seemed to 
elude her. Where were the singing bees for her? Nothing on the 
place nor in her grandma's house answered her, She searched as 
much of die world as she could from the top of the front steps and 
then went on down to the front gate and leaned over to gaze up 
and down the road, Looking, waiting, breathing short with impa- 
tience, Waiting for the world to be made. 

Through pollinated air she saw a glorious being coming up 
the road. In her former blindness she had known him as shiftless 



12 Zora Ncaie Hurston 



Johnny Taylor, tall and lean. That was before the golden dust of 
pollen had beglamored his rags and her eyes. 

In the last stages of Nanny's sleep, she dreamed of voices. 
Voices far-off but persistent ? and gradually coming nearer. Janie*s 
voice. Janic talking in whlspery snatches with a male voice she 
couldn't quite place. That brought her wide awake. She bolted 
upright and peered out of the window and saw johnny Taylor 
lacerating her Janie with a kiss. 

"Janier 

The old woman's voice was so lacking in command and 
reproof, so full of crumbling dissolution, — that Janic half 
believed that Nanny had not seen her. So she extended herself 
outside of her dream and went inside of the house. That was the 
end of her childhood. 

Nanny's head and race looked like the standing roots of some 
old tree that had been torn away by storm. Foundation of ancient 
power that no longer mattered. The cooling palma christi leaves 
that Janie had bound about her grandma's head with a white rag 
had wilted down and become part and parcel of the woman. Her 
eyes didn't bore and pierce. They diffused and melted Janie, the 
room and the world into one comprehension. 

"Janie, youse uh ? oman, now, so—" 

"Naw, Nanny, naw Ah ain't no real 'ornan yet." 

The thought was too new and heavy for Janie. She fought it 
away. 

Nanny closed her eyes and nodded a slow* weary affirmation 
many times before she gave it voice. 

"Yeah, Janie, youse got yo' womanhood on yuh. So Ah mont 
cz well tell yuh whut Ah been savin' up for uh spell. Ah wants to 
see you married right away." 

"Me, married? Naw, Nanny, no ma'am! Whut Ah know 
'bout uh husband?" 



Their Eye* Were Watching God 4^ 13 

"Whut Ah seen just now is plenty for me, honey, Ah don't 
want no trashy nigger, no breath -and-britches, lak johnny Taylor 
usin' yo > body to wipe his foots on." 

Nanny's words nude Janie's kiss across the gatepost seem 
like a manure pile after a rain. 

"Look at me, Janie. Don't set dere wid yo' head hung down. 
Look at yo' ole grandma!" Her voice began snagging on the 
prongs of her feelings. "Ah don't want to be taikin* to you lak dis. 
Fact is Ah done been on mah knees to mah Maker many's de time 
askin > please— for Him not to make de burden too heavy for me to 
bear." 

"Nanny, Ah just — Ah didn't mean nothin' bad." 

"Dat's what makes me skeered. You don't mean no harm. 
You don't even know where harm is at. Ah'm ole now. Ah can't 
be always guidin' yo' feet from harm and danger. Ah wants to see 
you married right away." 

"Who Ah'm goin' tub marry oflf-hand lak dat> Ah don't know 
nobody." 

"De Lawd will provide. He know Ah done bore de burden in 
de heat uh de day. Somebody done spoke to me 'bout you long 
time ago. Ah ain't said nothin' 'cause dat wasn't dc way Ah 
placed you. Ah wanted yuh to school out and pick from a higher 
bush and a sweeter berry. But dat ain't yo' idea, Ah see." 

"Nanny, who — who dat been askin' you for me?" 

"Brother Logan Killicks. He's a good man, too." 

"Naw, Nanny, no ma'am! Is dat whut he been hangin' round 
here for? He look like some ole skullhead in de grave yard." 

The older woman sat bolt upright and put her feet to the 
floor, and thrust back the leaves from her face. 

"So you don't want to marry off decent like, do yuh> You just 
wants to hug and kiss and feel around with first one man and then 
another, huh? You wants to make me suck de same sorrow yo' 



14 <Qr Zora Neale Hurston 

mama did, eh? Mah ok head ain't gray enough. Mah back ain't 
bowed enough to suit yuht" 

The vision of Logan Killicks was desecrating the pear tree, 
but Janie didn't know how to tell Nanny that. She merely 
hunched over and pouted at the floor. 

*Janie» 

"Yes, ma'am." 

"You answer me when Ah speak. Don't you set dere poutin' 
wid me after all Ah done went through for you!" 

She slapped the girl's face violently, and forced her head back 
so that their eyes met in struggle. With her hand uplifted for the 
second blow she saw the huge tear that welled up from Janie 
heart and stood in each eye. She saw the terrible agony and the 
lips tightened down to hold back the cry and desisted. Instead 
she brushed back the heavy hair from Janie's face and stood there 
suffering and loving and weeping internally for both of them. 

"Come to yo* Grandma, honey. Set in her lap lak yo* use tuh. 
Yo' Nanny wouldn't harm a hair uh yo' head. She don't want 
nobody else to do it neither if she kin help it. Honey, de white 
man is de ruler of everything as fur as Ah been able tuh find out. 
Maybe it's some place way off in de ocean where de black man is 
in power, but we don't know nothin* but what we see. So de 
white man throw down dc load and tell de nigger man tuh pick it 
up. He pick it up because he have to, but he don't tote it. He 
hand it to his womenfolks. De nigger woman is de mule uh de 
world so fur as Ah can see. Ah been prayin* fah it tuh be different 
wid you. Lawd, Lawd, Lawd!" 

For a long time she sat rocking with the girl held tighriy to 
her sunken breast. Janie's long legs dangled over one arm of the 
chair and die long braids of her hair swung low on the other side. 
Nanny half sung, half sobbed a running chantprayer over the 
head of the weeping girl. 



Thdr Eyes Were Watching God *fr 15 



u Lawd have mercy! It was a long time on de way but Ah reckon 
it had to come. Oh Jesus! Do, Jesus! Ah done de best Ah could." 
Finally, they both grew calm. 

"Janie> how long you been 'lowin' Johnny Taylor to kiss 
you?" 

"Only dis one time, Nanny. Ah don't love him at all. Whut 
made me do it is— oh, Ah don't know." 
"Thank yuh, Massa Jesus." 

"Ah ain't gointuh do it no mo', Nanny. Please don't make 
me marry Mr. Killicks." 

^Tam't Logan Kiilicks Ah wants you to have, baby, it's pro- 
teciion. Ah ain't gittin' ole^ honey. Ah'm done ole. One mornin' 
soon, now, de angel wid de sword is gointuh stop by here. De day 
and de hour is hid from me, but it won't be long. Ah ast de Lawd 
when you was uh infant in mah arms to let me stay here till you 
got grown. He done spared me to sec de day. Mah daily prayer 
now is tuh let dese golden moments rolls on a few days longer till 
Ah sec you safe in life." 

*Lcmme wait, Nanny, please, jus' a lil bit mo'." 

"Don't think Ah don't feci wid you, Janie, 'cause Ah do. Ah 
couldn't love yuh no more if Ah had uh felt yo' birth pains mah- 
self. Fact uh de matter, Ah loves yuh a whole heap more'n Ah do 
yo" mama, de one Ah did birth. But you got to take in considera- 
tion you ain't no everyday chile like most of 'em. You ain't got no 
papa, you might jus* as well say no mama, for de good she do yuh. 
You ain't got nobody but me. And mah head is ole and tilted 
towards de grave. Neither can you stand alone by yo'self. De 
thought uh you bem' kicked around from pillar tuh post is uh 
hurtin' thing. Every tear you drop squeezes a cup uh blood outa 
mah heart. Ah got tuh try and do for you befo' mah head is cold." 

A sobbing sigh burst out of Janie. The old woman answered 
her with litdc soothing pats of the hand 



16 Zora Neaie Hurston 



"You know, honey, us colored folks is branches without roots 
and that makes things come round in queer ways. You in particu- 
lar. Ah was born back due in slavery so it wasn't for me to fixlfiil my 
dreams of whut a woman oughta be and to do. Dat's one of de 
hold-backs of slavery. But nothing can't stop you from wishin'. 
You can't beat nobody down so low till you can rob 'em of they 
will. Ah didn't want to be used for a work-ox and a brood-sow and 
Ah didn't want mah daughter used dat way neither. It sho wasn't 
mah will for things to happen iak they did. Ah even hated de way 
you was born. But, all de same Ah said thank God, Ah got another 
chance. Ah wanted to preach a great sermon about colored 
women skttn* on high, but they wasn't no pulpit for me. Freedom 
found me wid a baby daughter in mah arms, so Ah said Ah'd take 
a broom and a cook-pot and throw up a highway through dc 
wilderness for her. She would expound what Ah felt. But somehow 
she got lost offe de highway and next thing Ah knowed here you 
was in de world. So whilst Ah was tendin' you of nights Ah said 
Ah'd save de text for you. Ah been waitin' a long time, Janie, but 
nothin' Ah been through ain't too much if you just take a stand on 
high ground lak Ah dreamed. w 

Old Nanny sat there rocking Janie like an infant and thinking 
back and back. Mind-pictures brought feelings, and feelings 
dragged out dramas from the hollows of her heart. 

*Dat mornin' on de big plantation close to Savannah, a rider 
come in a gallop tellin' 'bout Sherman takin' Atlanta. Marse 
Robert's son had done been kilt at Chickamauga. So he grabbed 
his gun and straddled his best horse and went off wid de rest of 
de gray-headed men and young boys to drive de Yankees back 
into Tennessee. 

"They was all checrin' and cryin' and shoutin' for de men dat 
was ridin' off. Ah couldn't see nothin' cause yo' mama wasn't but 
a week old, and Ah was flat uh mah back. But pretty soon he let 



Their Byes Were W&tchmg God ^ft* 17 

on he forgot somethm' and run into mah cabin and made me let 
down mah hair for de last time, He sorta wropped liis hand in it, 
pulled mah big toe, lak he always done, and was gone after dc rest 
lak lightnin\ Ah heard *em give one last whoop for him, Then de 
big house and de quarters got sober and silent, 

"It was de cooi of de evenin' when Mistis come walkin' in 
mah door, She throwed de door wide open and stood dcre 
lookin' at me outa her eyes and her face, Look lak she been livin' 
through uh hundred years in January without one day of spring. 
She come stood over me in de bed. 

M *Nanrry; Ah come to see that baby uh yourn,' 

"Ah tried not to feei de breeze off her face, but it got so cold 
in dcre dat Ah was freezin' to death under the kiwers. So Ah 
couldn't move right away lak Ah aimed to, But Ah knowed Ah 
had to make haste and do it, 

"'You better git dat kiwer offa dat youngun and dat quick! 1 
she clashed at me, 'Look lak you don't know who is Mistis on dis 
plantation, Madam, But Ah aims to show you,' 

"By dat time I had done managed tuh unkiwer mall baby 
enough for her to see de head and face, 

"'Nigger> whut's yo' baby doin' wid gray eyes and yaller 
hair?' She begin tuh slap mah jaws ever which a 'way, Ah never felt 
the fast ones 'cause Ah wuz too busy gittin' de kiwer back over 
mah chile. But dem last lick burnt me lak fire, All had too many 
feelin's tuh tell which one tuh follow so All didn't cry and Ah 
didn't do nothin' else. But then she kept on astin me how come 
mah baby look white. She asted me dat maybe twenty-five or 
thirty times, lak she got tuh sayin' dat and couldn't help herself. 
So Ah told her, 'Ah don't know nothin' but what Ah'm told tuh 
do, 'cause Ah ain't nothin' but uh nigger and uh slave,' 

"Instead of pacifyin' her lak Ah thought, look lak she got 
madder, But Ah reckon she was tired and wore out 'cause she 



IS Jfr Zora Ncak Hurstoa 



didn't hit me no more. She went to dc foot of de bed and wiped 
her hands on her handksher. 'Ah wouldn't dirty mah hands on 
yuh. But first thing in de mornin 1 de overseer will take you to dc 
whippin 1 post and tie you down on yo 1 knees and cut de hide offa 
yo' yaller back. One hundred lashes wid a raw-hide on yo 1 bare 
back. Ah'il have you whipped till de biood run down to yo 1 heels! 
Ah mean to count de licks mahself. Ahd if it kills you Ah'il stand 
de loss. Ahyhow, as soon as dat brat is a month old Ah'm going 
to sell it offa dis place.' 

"She flounced on off" and let her wintertime wid me. Ah 
knowed mah body wasn't healed, but Ah couldn't consider dat, 
In de black dark Ah wrapped mah baby de best Ah knowed how 
and made it to de swamp by de river. Ah knowed de place was Ml 
uh moccasins and other bitin 1 snakes^ but Ah was more skeered 
uh whut was behind me. Ah hide in dere day and night and suck- 
led de baby every time she start to cry, for fear somebody might 
hear her and AhM git found. Ah ain't sayin 7 uh friend or two didn't 
feci mah care. And den de Good Lawd seen to it dat Ah wasn't 
taken, Ah don't sec how come mah milk didn't kill mah chile, wid 
me so skeered and worried all de time. Dc noise uh de owls 
skeered me; de limbs of dem cypress trees took to crawlm' and 
movin 1 round after dark, and two three times Ah heered panthers 
prowiin 1 round. But nothin 1 never hurt me 'cause de Lawd 
knowed how it was. 

"Den, one night Ah heard de big guns boomin 1 lak thunder, 
It kept up all night long. Ahd de next mormn' Ah could see uh 
big ship at a distance and a great stirrin* round. So Ah wrapped 
Leafy up in moss and fixed her good in a tree and picked mah way 
on down to de landin'. The men was all in blue, and Ah heard 
people say Sherman was comin' to meet de boats in Savannah, 
and all of us slaves was free. So Ah run got mall baby and got in 
quotation wid people and found a place Ah could stay. 



Their Eyes Were Watching God 19 



"But it was a long time after dat befo' de Big Surrender at 
Bichmond. Den de big bell ring in Atlanta and all de men in gray 
uniforms had to go to Moultrie, and bury their swords in de 
ground to show they was never to fight about slavery no mo\ So 
den we knowed we was free. 

"Ah wouldn't marry nobody, though Ah could have uh heap 
uh times, cause Ah didn't want nobody mistreating mah baby. So 
Ah got with some good white people and come down here in 
West Florida to work and make de sun shine on both sides of de 
street for Leafy, 

"Mah Madam help me wid her just lak she been doin' wid 
you. Ah put her in school when it got so it was a school to put her 
in. Aii was "spectin' to make a school teacher outa her. 

"But one day she didn't come home at de usual time and Ah 
watted and waited, but she never come all dat night. Ah took a 
lantern and went round askm' everybody but nobody ain't seen 
her. De next mornin' she come crawlin' in on her hands and 
knees. A sight ro see. Dat school teacher had done hid her in de 
woods all night long, and he had done raped mah baby and run 
on off just before day. 

"She was only seventeen, and somethin' lak dat to happen! 
lawd a'mussy! Look lak Ah kin see it all over again. It was a long 
time before she was well, and by dat time we knowed you was on 
de way. And after you was born she took to drinkin' likker and 
stayin' out nights. Couldn't git her to stay here and nowhere else. 
Lawd knows where she is right now. She ain't dead* 'cause Ah'd 
know it by mah feelings, but sometimes Ah wish she was at rest, 

"And, Janie, maybe it wasn't much, but Ah done de best Ah 
kin by you. Ah raked and scraped and bought dis 111 piece uh land 
so you wouldn't have to stay in de white folks' yard and tuck yo' 
head befo' other chillun at school Dat was ail right when you was 
little. But when you got big enough to understand things, Ah 



20 tfp Zora Ncalc Humon 



wanted you to look upon yo'self* Ah don*t want yo' feathers always 
crumpled by folks throwin* up things in yo* fete. And Ah can't die 
easy thinkin' maybe de menfolks white or black is makm' a spit cup 
outa you: Have some sympathy fuh me. Put me down easy, Janie, 
Ah'm a cracked plated 




There are years that mk questions &nd years that answer Janie had 
had no chance to know things, so she had to ask. Did marriage end 
the cosmic loneliness of the unmated 3 * Did marriage compel love 
like the sun the day? 

In the few days to live before she went to Logan Kiilicks and 
his often-mentioned sixty acres, Janie asked inside of herself and 
out. She was back and forth to the pear tree continuously wonder- 
ing and thinking. Finally out of Nanny's talk and her own conjec- 
tures she made a sort of comfort for herself Yes, she would love 
Logan after they were married. She couid see no way for it to come 
about, but Nanny and the old folks had said it, so it must be so. 
Husbands and wives always loved each other, and that was what 
marriage meant. It was just so. Janie felt glad of the thought* for 
then it wouldn't seem so destructive and mouldy. She wouldn't be 
lonely anymore, 

Janie and Logan got married in Nanny's parlor of a Saturday 
evening with three cakes and big platters of fried rabbit and 
chicken. Everything to eat in abundance. Nanny and Mrs. Wash- 
burn had seen to that. But nobody put anything on the scat of 
Logan's wagon to make it ride glorious on the way to his house. 
It was a lonesome place like a stump in the middle of the woods 



22 -ttr Zora Neale Humon 

where nobody had ever been. The house was absent of flavor, 
too. But anyhow Janie went on inside to wait for love to begin. 
The new moon had been up and down three times before she got 
worried in mind. Then she went to see Nanny in Mrs. Wash- 
burn's kitchen on the day for beaten biscuits. 

Nanny beamed all out with gladness and made her come up 
to the bread board so she could kiss her. 

"Lawd a'mussy, honey, Ah sho is glad tuh see mah chile? 
G'wan inside and let Mis 1 Washburn know youse heah. Umph! 
Umph! Umph! How is dat husband uh yourn?" 

Janie didn't go in where Mrs, Washburn was. She didn't say 
anything to match up with Nanny's gladness either. She just fell 
on a chair with her hips and sat there. Between the biscuits and 
her beaming pride Nanny didn't notice for a minute. But after a 
while she found the conversation getting lonesome so she looked 
up at Janie. 

"Whut's de matter, sugar.* You ain't none too spry dis mornin'. w 

"Oh, nothin' much, Ah reckon. Ah come to get a iil informa- 
tion from you." 

The old woman looked amazed, then gave a big clatter of 
laughter. "Don*t tell me you done got knocked up already, less 
see — dis Saturday it's two month and two weeks." 

"No'm, Ah don't think so anyhow" Janie blushed a litde. 

"You ain't got nothin* to be shamed of, honey, youse uh 
married 'oman. You got yo' lawful husband same as Mis' Wash- 
burn or anybody else?" 

"Ah'm all right dat way. Ah know 'tain't nothin' dere." 

"You and Logan been ftissin'? Lawd> Ah know dat grassgut, 
liver-iipted nigger ain't done took and beat mah baby already! 
Ah'U take a stick and salivate *im!" 

^No'm, he ain't even talked 'bout hittin' me. He says he 
never mean to lay de weight uh his hand on me in malice. He 



Their Byes Were Watching God Jflfer 23 



chops all de wood he think Ah wants and den he totes it inside de 
kitchen for me. Keeps both water buckets fall" 

"Humph! don't 'spect all dat tuh keep up. He ain't kissin' 
yo' mouf when he carry on over yuh lak dat. He's kissin' yo' foot 
and 'tain't in uh man tuh kiss foot long. Mouf kissin' is on uh 
equal and dat's natural but when dey got to bow down tuh love, 
dey soon straightens up t " 

"Ycs'm." 

"Well, if he do all dat whut you come in heah wid uh face 
long as mah arm for?" 

"'Cause you told me Ah mus gointer love hin^ and, and Ah 
don't. Maybe if somebody was to tell me how, Ah could do it. w 

"You come hcah wid yo' mouf full uh foolishness on uh busy 
day. Hcah you got uh prop tuh lean on all yo* bawn days, and big 
protection, and everybody got tuh tip dey hat tuh you and call 
you Mis 1 Killicks, and you come worryin' me 'bout love." 

"But Nanny, Ah wants to want him sometimes. Ah don't 
want him to do all de wan tin \" 

"If you don't want him, you sho oughta. Heah you is wid de 
onliest organ m town, amongst colored folks, in yo' parlor. Got a 
house bought and paid for and sixty acres uh land right on de big 
road and . . . Lawd have mussy! Dat's de very prong all us black 
women gits hung on. Dis love! Dat's just whut' s got us uh pultin' 
and uh haulm' and sweatin' and doin' from can't see in de mornin' 
till can't see at night. Dat's how come de ole folks say dat bein' uh 
fool don't kill nobody. It jus' makes you sweat. Ah betcha you 
wants some dressed up dude dat got to look at de sole of his shoe 
every&me he cross de street tuh see whether he got enough leather 
dere tuh make it across. You can buy and sell such as dem wid what 
you got. In feet you can buy 'em and give 'em away. * 

"Ah ain't studyin' 'bout none of 'em. At de same time Ah ain't 
takin' dat ole land tuh heart neither. Ah could throw ten acres of it 



24 f&p Zora Neale Human 



over de fence every day and never look back to see where it fell, Ah 
feel de same way 'bout Mr, Killicks too. Some folks never was 
meant to be loved and he's one of 'em." 
"How come?" 

"'Cause Ah hates de way his head is so long one way and so 
flat on de sides and dat pone uh fat back uh his neck," 

"He never made his own head, You talk so silly 7 " 

"Ah don/t keer who made it, Ah don't like de job. His belly 
is too big too, now ) and his toe-nails look lak mule foots. And 
'tain't nolhin 1 in de way of him washin' his feet every evenin 1 
before he comes tuh bed, 'Tain't nothin 1 tuh hinder him 'cause 
Ah places de water for him, Ah'd ruther be shot wid tacks than 
tuh turn over in de bed and stir up de air whilst he is in dere, He 
don't even never mention nothin 1 pretty." 

She began to cry 

"Ah wants things sweet: wid mail marriage lak when you sit 
under a pear tree and think, Ah , , , " 

"Tain't no use in you cryin 1 , Janie, Grandma done been long uh 
few roads herself But folks is meant to cry 'bout somcthin 1 or other 
Better leave things de way dey is, Yousc young yet, No tetUn' whut 
moi it happen befo' you die, Wait awliilc, baby Yo 1 mind will change, ,? 

Nanny sent janie along with a stern mien> but she dwindled all 
the rest of the day as she worked, And when she gained the privacy 
of her own little shack she stayed on her knees so long she forgot 
she was there herself There is a basin in the mind where words 
float around on thought and thought on sound and sight, Then 
there is a depth of thought untouched by words, and deeper still a 
gulf of formless feelings untouched by thought, Nanny entered 
this infinity of conscious pain again on her old knees, Towards 
morning she muttered, "Lawd, you know mah heart, Ah done de 
best Ah could do, De rest is left to you," She scuffled up from her 
knees and fell heavily across the bed. A month later she was dead, 



Their Eyes Were Watching God 2S 



So Janie waited a bloom time, and a green time and an 
orange time, But when the pollen again gilded the sun and sifted 
down on the world she began to stand around the gate and 
expect things- What things? She didn't know exactly- Her breath 
was gusty and short- She knew things that nobody had ever told 
her- For instance^ the words of the trees and the wind. She often 
spoke to felling seeds and said, "Ah hope you fall on soft 
ground," because she had heard seeds saying that to each other 
as they passed- She knew the world was a stallion rolling in the 
blue pasture of ether, She knew that God tore down the old 
world every evening and built a new one by sun-up- It was won- 
derful to see it take form with the sun and emerge from the gray 
dust of its making- The familiar people and things had failed her 
so she hung over the gate and looked up the road towards way 
off, She knew now that marriage did not make love- Janie\s first 
dream was dead, so she became a woman - 




Long before the year was up, Janie noticed that her husband 
had stopped talking in rhymes to her He had ceased to won- 
der at her long black hair and finger it. Six months back he had 
told her, "If Ah kin haul de wood heah and chop it fuh yuh, 
look lak you oughta be able tuh tote it inside, Mali fust wife 
never bothered me 'bout choppin 7 no wood nohow. She'd 
grab dat ax and sling chips lak uh man. You done been spoilt 
rotten," 

So Janie had told him, "Ab'm just as stiff as you is stout. If you 
can stand not to chop and tote wood Ah reckon you can stand not 
to git no dinner. 'Scuse man freezoiky, Mist' Killicks, but Ah don't 
mean to chop de first chip," 

"Aw you know Ah'm gwine chop de wood fuh yuh. Even if you 
is stingy as you can be wid me, Yo' Grandma and me myself done 
spoilt yuh now, and Ah reckon Ah have tuh keep on wid it,** 

One morning soon he called her out of the kitchen to the 
barn. He had the mule all saddled at the gate, 

"Looka heah, LilBit, help me out some. Cut up dese seed 
taters fuh me. Ah got tuh go step off a piece " 

^Where you goin\>" 

^Ovcr tuh Lake City tuh see uh man about uh mule." 



Their Byes Were Watching God 4RP 27 



"Whut you need two mules fuh? Lessen you aims to swap off 
dis one," 

^Naw, Ah needs two mules dis yeah- Taters is goin' tuh be 
taters in de Ml. Bringin* big prices- Ah aims tuh run two plows, 
and dis man Ah*m talkin* 'bout is got uh mule all gended up so 
even uh woman kin handle *im," 

Logan held his wad of tobacco real still in his jaw like a ther- 
mometer of his feelings while he studied Janie *s fete and waited 
for her to say something, 

"So Ah thought Ah mout as well go see," He tagged on and 
swallowed to kill time but Janie said nothing except^ "Ah'Il cut 
de p ? taters fuh yuh, When yuh comin' back?" 

''Don't know exactly, Round dust dark Ah reckon, It's uh 
sorta long trip — specially if Ah hafter lead one on de way back, " 

When Janie had finished indoors she sat down in the barn with 
the potatoes, But springtime reached her in there so she moved 
everything to a place in the yard where she could see the road. The 
noon sun filtered through the leaves of the fine oak tree where she 
sat and made lacy patterns on the ground- She had been there a 
long time when she heard whistling coming down the road, 

It was a cityfied^ stylish dressed man with his hat set at an angle 
that didn*t belong in these parts, His coat was over his arm* but he 
didn't need it to represent his clothes, The shirt with the silk 
sleeveholders was dazzling enough for the wortd, He whisded, 
mopped his fece and walked like he knew where he was going, He 
was a seal-brown color but he acted like Mr, Washburn or some- 
body like that to janie, Where would such a man be coming from 
and where was he going? He didn't look her way nor no other way 
except straight ahead s so Janie ran to the pump and jerked the han~ 
die hard while she pumped, It made a loud noise and also made 
her heavy hair fall down. So he stopped and looked hard, and then 
he asked her for a cool drink of water, 



28 Zora Ncalc Hurston 



Janie pumped it off until she got a good look at the man. He 
talked friendly while he drank. 

Joe Starks was the name, yeah Joe Starks from in and through 
Georgy. Been workin' for white folks all his life. Saved up some 
money — round three hundred dollars, yes indeed, right here in his 
pocket. Kept hearin' 'bout them huildin' a new state down heah in 
Floridy and sort of wanted to come. But he was makin' money 
where he was. But when he heard all about Vm makin' a town all 
outa colored folks, he knowed dat was de place he wanted to be. 
He had always wanted to he a big voice, hut dc white folks had all 
de sayso where he come from and everywhere else, exceptin' dis 
place dat colored folks was buildin' theirselves. Dat was right too. 
De man dat built things oughta boss it. Let colored folks build 
things too if dey wants to crow over sometMn'. He was glad he 
had his money all saved up. He meant to git dere whilst de town 
wuz yet a baby. He meant to buy in big. It had always been his 
wish and desire to be a big voice and he had to live nearly thirty 
years to find a chance. Where was Janie' s papa and mama? 

"Dey dead, Ah reckon. Ah wouldn*t know 'bout 'em 'cause 
mah Grandma raised me. She dead too." 

"She dead too! Well, who's lookin* after a lil girl -chile lak 
you?" 

"Ah'm married. 7 ' 

"You married? You ain't hardly old enough to be weaned. Ah 
betcha you still craves sugar-tits, doncher?" 

"Yeah, and Ah makes and sucks 'em when de notion strikes 
me. Drinks sweeten' water too." 

"Ah loves dat mahself. Never specks to get too old to enjoy 
syrup sweeten' water when it's cools and nice. " 

"Us got plenty syrup in de barn. Bibbon-cane syrup. Tf you 
so desires—" 

"Where yo' husband at, Mis' er-er. B 



Their Eyes Were Watching God 4p 29 

"JVIah name is Janic Mae Killicks since Ah got married. 
Useter be name Janie Mae Crawford. Mah husband is gone tuh 
buy a mule fuh me tuh plow. He left me cuttin 1 up seed p'taters. " 

"You behind a plow! Yon ain't got no mo' business wid uh 
plow than uh hog is got wid uh holiday! You ain*t got no busi- 
ness cuttin' up no seed p'taters neither. A pretty doll-baby lak 
you is made to sit on de front porch and rock and fan yo'self and 
cat p'taters dat other folks plant just special for you." 

Janie laughed and drew two quarts of syrup from the barrel 
and Joe Starks pumped the water bucket full of cool water. They 
sat under the tree and talked. He was going on down to the new 
part of Florida, but no harm to stop and chat. He later decided 
he needed a rest anyway. It would do him good to rest a week or 
two. 

Every day after that they managed to meet in the scrub oaks 
across die road and talk about when he would be a big ruler of 
things with her reaping the benefits. Janie pulled back a long 
time because he did not represent sun-up and pollen and bloom ■ 
ing trees, but he spoke for far horizon. He spoke for change and 
chance. Still she hung back. The memory of Nanny was still pow- 
erfol and strong, 

"Janie, if you think Ah aims to tole you off and make a dog 
outa you, youse wrong. Ah wants to make a wife outa you. M 

"You mean dat, JoeP 

"De day you puts yo 1 hand in mine, Ah wouldn't let de sun 
go down on us single. Ah'm uh man wid principles. You ain't 
never knowed what it was to be treated lak a lady and Ah wants 
to be de one tuh show yuh. Call me Jody lak you do sometime." 
"Tody," she smiled up at him, "but s'posin — 
"Leave de s'posin' and everything else to me. Ah*li be down 
dis road uh little after sunup tomorrow mornin' to wait for you. 
You come go wid me. Den all de rest of yo' natural life you kin live 



30 Zora Neaie Hurston 



kkyou oughta- Kiss me and shake yo' head- When yoa do dat, yo' 
plentiful hair breaks iak day, 7 * 

Janie debated the matter that night in bed- 

"Logan, you 'sleep?" 

"If Ah wuz, you'd be done woke me up callin' mc" 
"Ah wuz thinkin' real hard about us; about you and mc- ft 
"It^s about time- Youse powerful independent around here 
sometime considerinV 

"Considerin' whut for instance?" 

"Considerin' youse born in a carriage 'thout no top to it, 
and yo' mama and you bein' born and raised in de white folks 
back-yard-*' 

"You didn't say all dat when you wuz begging Nanny for me 
to marry you-" 

"Ah thought you would 'predate good treatment- Thought 
AhM take and make somethin' outa yuh- You think youse white 
foiks by dc way you act." 

"S'posin' Ah wuz to run off and leave yuh sometime-" 

There! Janie had put words in his heid-in fears- She might 
run off sure enough, The thought put a terrible ache in Logan's 
body, but he thought it best to put on scorn- 

"Ah'm gcttin 7 sleepy, Janie- Let's don't talk no mo\ 'Tain't 
too many mens would trust yuh, knowin' yo' folks lak dey do- B 

"Ah might take and find somebody dat did trust me and 
leave yuh-" 

"Shucks! Tain't no mo' fools lak me- A whole lot of mens will 
grin in yo 1 face, but dey ain't gwine tuh work and feed yuh- You 
won't git far and you won't be long, when dat big gut reach over 
and grab dat little one, you'll be too giad to come back here. 1 * 

"You don't take nothin' to count but sow-belly and corn- 
bread-" 

"Ah'm sleepy- Ah don't aim to worry mah gut into a fiddle- 



Their Eyes Were Watching God V* SI 

string wid no s'posin'," He flopped over resentful in his agony 
and pretended sleep. He hoped that he had hurt her as she had 
hurt him. 

Janie got up with him the next morning and had the breakfast 
halfway done when he bellowed from the barn, 

"Janie!" Logan called harshly "Come help rnc move dis 
manure pile befo' dc sun gits hot- You don't take a bit of interest in 
dis place, Tain't no use in foolin' round in dat kitchen all day long, 1 * 

Janie walked to the door with the pan in her hand still stirring 
the cornmeal dough and looked towards the barn, The sun from 
ambush was threatening the world with red daggers, but the 
shadows were gray and solid-looking around the barn, Logan 
with his shovel looked like a black bear doing some clumsy dance 
on his hind legs, 

"You don't need mah help out dere, Ix>gan, Youse in yo' 
place and Ah'rn in mine," 

"You ain't got no particular place, It's wherever Ah need 
yuh. Git uh move on yuh, and dat quick, 79 

"Mah mamma didn't tell rnc All wuz born in no hurry. So 
whut business Ah got rushin' now? Anyhow dat ain't whut youse 
mad about. Youse mad 'cause Ah don't fell down and wash-up 
dese sixty acres uh ground yuh got, You ain't done mc no favor 
by marryin' me, And if dat's what you call yo'self doin', Ah don't 
thank yuh for it, Youse mad 'cause Ah'm teilin' yuh whut you 
already knowed." 

Logan dropped his shovel and made two or three clumsy 
steps towards the house, then stopped abruptly 

"Don't you change too many words wid me dis mawmn', 
Janie, do Ah'll take and change ends wid yuh! Heah, Ah just as 
good as take you out de white folks' kitchen and set you down 
on yo ? royal diasticutis and you take and low- rate me! Ah'll 
take holt uh dat ax and come in dere and kill yuh! You better 



32 4Sp Zora Ncale Hurston 



dry up in dere! Ah'm too honest and hard-workin* for anybody 
in yo* family, dat's dc reason you don't want me!" The last 
sentence was half a sob and half a cry. "Ah guess some iow-Hfed 
nigger is grinnkf in yo' face and iyin' tuh yuh. God damn yo 5 
hide!" 

Janie turned from the door without answering, and stood 
still in the middle of the floor without knowing it. She turned 
wrongside out just standing there and feeling. When the throb- 
bing calmed a little she gave Logan's speech a hard thought and 
placed it beside other things she had seen and heard. When she 
had finished with that she dumped the dough on the skillet and 
smoothed it over with her hand. She wasn't even angry. Ix>gan 
was accusing her of her mamma, her grandmama and her feel- 
ings, and she couldn't do a thing about any of it. The sow-belly 
in the pan needed turning. She flipped it over and shoved it back. 
A litde cold water in the coffee pot to settle it. Turned the hoe- 
cake with a plate and then made a little laugh. What was she los- 
ing so much time for? A feeling of sudden newness and change 
came over her. Janie hurried out of the front gate and turned 
south. Even if Joe was not there waiting for her, the change was 
bound to do her good. 

The morning road air was like a new dress. That made her 
feel the apron tied around her waist. She untied it and flung it 
on a low bush beside the road and walked on, picking flowers 
and making a bouquet. After that she came to where Joe Starks 
was waiting for her with a hired rig. He was very solemn and 
helped her to the scat beside him. With him on it, it sat like 
some high, ruling chair. From now on until death she was going 
to have flower dust and springtime sprinkled over everything. A 
bee for her bloom. Her old thoughts were going to come in 
handy now, but new words would have to be made and said to 
fit them. 



Their Eyes Were Watching God ^Br 33 



"Green Cove Springs," he told the driver, So they were mar- 
ried there before sundown, just like Joe had said, With new clothes 
of silk and wool 

They sat on the boarding house porch and saw the sun plunge 
into the same crack in the earth from which the night emerged, 




Ofh the train the next day y Joe didn*t make many speeches with 
rhymes to her, but he bought her the best things the butcher had, 
like apples and a glass lantern foil of candies. Mostly he talked 
about plans for the town when he got there. They were bound to 
need somebody like him, Janie took a lot of looks at him and she 
was proud of what she saw Kind of portly like rich white folks. 
Strange trains, and people and places didn't scare him neither. 
Where they got off the train at Maitland he found a buggy to carry 
them over to the colored town right away 

It was early in the afternoon when they got there, so Joe said 
they must walk over the place and look around. They locked arms 
and strolled from end to end of the town. Joe noted the scant 
dozen of shame-faced houses scattered in the sand and palmetto 
roots and said, "God, they call this a town? Why, 'tain*t nothing 
but a raw place in dc woods,* 1 

"It is a whole heap littler than Ah thought," Janie admitted 
her disappointment, 

"Just like Ah thought,"* Joe said, ri A whole heap uh talk and 
nobody doin' nothin*, I god, whereas de Mayor?" he asked some- 
body, "Ah want tuh speak wid de Mayor,"* 

Two men who were sitting on their shoulderblades under a 



Their Eyes Were Watching God *Sm 35 

huge live oak tree almost sat upright at the tone of his voice. They 
stared at Joe's face, his clothes and his wife. 

"Where y'all cornc from in sich uh big haste?" Lee Coker asked. 

"Middle Georgy," Starks answered briskly. "Joe Starks is mah 
name, from in and through Georgy" 

"You and yo' daughter goin' tuh join wid us in fellowship?" 
the other reclining figure asked. "Mighty glad tuh have yuh. 
Hicks is the name. Guv' nor Amos Hicks from Buford, South 
Carolina. Free, single, disengaged." 

"I god, Ah ain't nowhere near old enough to have no grown 
daughter. This here is mah wife." 

Hicks sank back and lost interest at once. 

"Where is de Mayor?" Starks persisted. "Ah wants tuh talk 
wid fek" 

"Youse uh mite too previous for dat," Coker told him. "Us 
ain't got none yit." 

"Ain't got no Mayor! Well, who teils y'ail what to do?" 

"Nobody. Everybody's grown. And then agin, Ah reckon us 
just ain't thought about it. Ah know Ah ain't." 

"Ah did think about it one day," Hicks said dreamily, "but 
then Ah forgot it and ain't thought about it since then." 

"No wonder things ain't no better," Joe commented. "Ah'm 
buyin' in here, and buyin' in big. Soon 7 s we find some place to 
sleep tonight us menfolks got to call people together and form a 
committee. Then we can get things movin' round here." 

"Ah kin point yuh where yuh kin sleep," Hicks offered. 
"Man got his house done built and his wife ain't come yet." 

Starks and Janie moved on off in the direction indicated with 
Hicks and Coker boring into their backs with looks. 

"Dat man talks like a section foreman," Coker commented. 
"He's mighty compellment." 

"Shucks!" said Hicks. "Mah britches is just as long as his. But 



36 46* Zora Neaie Hurston 



dat wife uh hisn! Ah'm uh son of uh Conjunction if Ah don't go 
tuh Gcorgy and git me one just like her." 

"Whut wid?" 

"Wid mahtalk, man." 

"It takes money tuh feed pretty women. Dey gits uh lavish 
uh talk." 

"Not lak mine. Dey loves to hear me talk because dey can't 
understand it. Mah co-talkin' is too deep. Too much co to it." 
"Umph!" 

"You don't believe me, do yuh> You don't know de women 
Ah kin git to mah command." 
"Umph!" 

"You ain't never seen me when Ah'm out pleasuring and 
givjn' pleasure." 
"Umph!" 

"It's uh good thing he married her befo' she seen me. Ah kin 
be some trouble when Ah take uh notion." 
"Umph!" 

"Ah'm uh bitch's baby round lady people." 

"Ah's much ruther see all dat than to hear 'bout it. Come on 
less go see whut he gointuh do 'bout dis town." 

They got up and sauntered over to where Starks was living 
for the present. Already the town had found the strangers. Joe 
was on the porch talking to a small group of men. Janie could be 
seen through the bedroom window getting setded. Joe had 
rented the house for a month. The men were all around him, and 
he was talking to them by asking questions. 

"Whut is de real name of de place?" 

"Some say West Maidand and some say Eatonville. Dat's 
'cause Cap'n Eaton give us some land along wid Mr. Laurence. 
But Cap'n Eaton give de first piece." 

"How much did they give?" 



Their Byes Were Warehing God 37 



"Oh 'bout fifty acres." 
"How much is y'all got now?" 
"Oh 'bout de same" 

"Dat ain't near enough. Who owns de land joining on to 
whut yuh got?" 
"Cap'n Eaton." 
"Where £f dis Cap'n Eaton?" 

"Over dere in Maitland, Veptin' when he go visitin* or 
something 

"Lemme speak to mah wife a minute and Ah J m goin' see de 
man. You cannot have no town without some land to build it on. 
Tall ain't got enough here to cuss a cat on without gittin' yo J 
mouf fall of hair." 

"He ain't got no mo' land tuh give away. Yuh needs plenty 
money if yuh wants any mo'." 

"Ah specks to pay him." 

The idea was funny to diem and they wanted to laugh. They 
tried hard to hold it in, but enough incredulous laughter burst 
out of their eyes and leaked from the comers of their mouths to 
inform anyone of their thoughts. So Joe walked off abrupdy. 
Most of them went along to show him the way and to be there 
when his bluff was called. 

Hicks didn't go far. He turned back to the house as soon as 
he felt he wouldn't be missed from the crowd and mounted the 
porch. 

"Evcnin*, Miz Starks." 

"Good evcnin\" 

"You reckon you gointuh like round here?" 
"Ah reckon so." 

"Anything Ah kin do tuh help out, why you kin call on me. " 
"Much obliged." 

There was a long dead pause. Janie was not jumping at her 



38 J£p Zora Neaic Humon 



chance like she ought to. Ixx>k like she didn't hardly know he 
was there. She needed waking up. 

"Folks must be mighty close-mouthed where you come from. " 

"Dat's right. But it must be different at yo* home." 

He was a long time thinking bu t finally he saw and stumbled 
down the steps with a surly "'Bye." 

"Goodbye." 

That night Coker asked him about it. 

"Ah saw yuh when yuh ducked back tuh Starks 1 house. Well, 
how didju make out?" 

"Who, me? Ah ain't been near de place, man . Ah been down 
tuh de lake tryin* tuh ketch me uh fish," 

"Umph?" 

"Dat 'oman ain't so awfully pretty no how when yuh take de 
second look at her. Ah had to sorta pass by de house on de way back 
and seen her good. Tain't nothin 1 to her 'ceptin' dat long hair." 

"Umph!" 

"And anyhow, Ah done took uhlikin 1 tuh de man. Ah wouldn't 
harm him at ail. She ain't half ez pretty ez uh gal Ah run off and left 
up in South CaTlina," 

"Hicks, Ah'd git mad and say yon wuz lyin 1 if Ah didn't know 
yuh so good. You just talkin 1 to consolate yo'self by word of 
mouth. You got uh willin 1 mind, but youse too light behind. A 
whole heap uh men seen de same thing you seen but they got bet- 
ter sense than you. You oughta know you can't take no 'oman lak 
dat from no man lak him. A man dat ups and buys two hundred 
acres uh land at one whack and pays cash for it. " 

"Naw! He didn't buy it sho nuff>" 

"Heshodid. Come offwiddc papers in his pocket. He done 
called a meetin 1 on his porch tomorrow. Ain't never seen no sich 
uh colored man befo 1 in all mah bawn days. He's gointuh put up 
uh store and git uh post office from de Goven'ment. " 



Their Eyes Were Watching God 4Sr 39 



That irritated Hicks and he didn't know why. He was the aver- 
age mortal. It troubled him to get used to the world one way and 
then suddenly have it turn different. He wasn't ready to think of 
colored people in post offices yet. He laughed boisterously. 

w Y*all let dat stray darky tell y'all any ole lie! Uh colored man 
sittin' up in uh post office ! w He made an obscene sound. 

"He's liable tuh do it too > Hicks. Ah hope so anyhow. Us col- 
ored folks is too envious of one 'nother. Dat's how come us don't 
git no further than us do. Us talks about de white man keepin' us 
down! Shucks! He don't have tuh. Us keeps our own selves 
down." 

"'Now who said All didn't want de man tuh git us uh post 
office? He kin be de king uh Jerusalem fuh all Ah keer. Still and 
all, 'tain't no use in telling lies just 'cause uh heap uh folks don't 
know no better. Yo' common sense oughta tell yuh de white folks 
ain't goin' tuh 'low him tuh run no post office," 

"Dat we don't know, Hicks. He say he kin and Ah b'lieve he 
know whut he's talkin' 'bout. Ah reckon if colored folks got they 
own town they kin have post offices and whatsoever they please, 
regardless. And then agin, Ah don't speck de white folks way off 
yonder give uh damn. Less us wait and see." 

"Oh, Ah'm waitin' all right. Specks tuh keep on waitin' till 
hell freeze over." 

"Aw, git reconciled! Dat woman don't want you. You got 
tuh learn dat all de women in de world ain't been brought up on 
no teppentinc still, and no saw- mill camp. There's some women 
dat jus' ain't for you tuh broach. You can't git her wid no fish 
sandwich." 

They argued a bit more then went on to the house where Joe 
was and found him in his shirt-sleeves, standing with his legs 
wide apart, asking questions and smoking a cigar. 

"Where's de closest saw- mill?" He was asking Tony Taylor. 



40 jfip Zora Neaie Hurston 



"'Bout scben miles goin' tVards Apopka," Tony told him. 
"Thinkin' "bout buildin' right away?" 

"I god, yeah, But not de house Ah specks tuh live in. Dat kin 
wait till Ah make up mah mind where Ah wants it located. Ah Ag- 
gers we all needs uh store in uh big hurry," 

"Uh store?" Tony shouted in surprise. 

"Yeah, uh store right heah in town wid everything in it you 
needs. 'Tain't uh bit uh use in everybody proagin' way over tuh 
Maitland tuh buy uh little meal and flour when they could git it 
right heah." 

w Dat would be kinda nice, Brother Starks, since you mention it. " 

u l god, course it would! And then agin uh store is good in 
other ways. Ah got tuh have a place tuh be at when folks comes 
tuh buy land. And furthermo' everything is got tuh have uh cen- 
ter and uh heart tuh it, and uh town ain't no different from 
nowhere else. It would be natural fiih de store tuh be meetin' 
place fuh de town." 

"Dat sho is de truth, now." 

"Oh, we'll have dis town all fixed up tereckly. Don't miss 
bein' at de meetin' tuhmorrow" 

Just about time for the committee meeting called to meet on 
his porch next day, the first wagon load of lumber drove up and 
Jody went to show them where to put it. Told Janie to hold the 
committee there until he got back, he didn't want to miss them, but 
he meant to count every foot of that lumber before it touched the 
ground. He could have saved his breath and Janie could have kept 
right on with what she was doing. In the first place everybody was 
late in coming; then the next thing as soon as they heard where Jody 
was, they kept right on up there where the new lumber was rattling 
off the wagon and being piled under the big live oak tree. So that's 
where the meeting was held with Tony Taylor acting as chairman 
and Jody doing all the talking. A day was named for roads and they 



Their Eyes Were Watching God 41 

all agreed to bring axes and things like that and chop out two roads 
running each way, That applied to everybody except Tony and 
Coker. They could carpenter, so Jody hired them to go to work on 
his store bright and soon the next morning, Jody himself would be 
busy driving around from town to town telling people about 
Eatonvillc and drumming up citizens to move there, 

Janie was astonished to see the money Jody had spent for the 
land come back to him so fast, Ten new iamilies bought lots and 
moved to town in six weeks. It all looked too big and rushing for 
her to keep track of, Before the store had a complete roof, Jody 
had canned goods piled on the floor and was selling so much he 
didn't have time to go off on his talking tours, She had her first 
taste of presiding over it the day it was complete and finished. 
Jody told her to dress up and stand in the store all that evening. 
Everybody was coming sort of fixed up, and he didn't mean for 
nobody else's wife to rank with her, She must look on herself as 
the bell-cow, the other women were the gang, So the put on one 
of her bou glit dresses and went up the new-cut road all dressed 
in wine-colored red. Her silken ruffles rustled and muttered 
about her, The other women had on percale and calico with here 
and there a headrag among the older ones. 

Nobody was buying anything that night, They didn't come 
there for diat, They had come to make a welcome, So Joe knocked 
in the head of a barrel of soda crackers and cut some cheese, 

"Everybody come right forward and make merry, I god, it's 
rnah treat," Jody gave one of his big heh hch laughs and stood 
back. Janie dipped up the lemonade like he told her, A big tin cup 
full for everybody, Tony Taylor felt so good when it was all gone 
that he felt to make a speech, 

"Ladies and gent'men, we'se come tuhgethcr and gethered 
heah tuh welcome tub our midst one who has seen fit tuh cast in 
his lot amongst us, He didn't just come hisself neither. He have 



42 ^Sr Zora Ncaie Hurston 



seen fit tuh bring his, er, en, de light uh his home, dat is his wife 
amongst us also. She couldn't look no mo 1 better and no nobler 
if she wuz de queen uh England. It's uh pledger fuh her tuh be 
heah amongst us. Brother Starks, we welcomes you and all dat 
you have seen fit tuh bring amongst us — yo' belov-ed wife, yo' 
store, yo' iand~— " 

A big- mouthed burst of laughter cut him short. 

"Dat'll do, Tony," Lige Moss yelled out. "Mist' Starks is uh 
smart man, weV all willin' tuh acknowledge tuh dat, but de day 
he comes waggin' down de road wid two hund'ed acres uf land 
over his shoulder, Ah wants tuh be dere tuh see it." 

Another big blow-out of a laugh. Tony was a little peeved at 
having the one speech of his lifetime ruined like that. 

U A11 y'ail know whut wuz meant. Ah don't see how come — " 

"'Cause you jump up tuh make speeches and don't know 
how," Lige said. 

"Ah wuz speakin' jus' all right befo' you stuck yo' bill in." 

"Naw, you wuzn't, Tony. Youse way outa jurisdiction. You 
can't welcome uh man and his wife 'thout you make comparison 
about Isaac and Rebecca at de well, else it don't show de love 
between 'em if you don't." 

Everybody agreed that that was right. It was sort of pitiful for 
Tony not to know he couldn't make a speech without saying that. 
Some tittered at his ignorance. So Tony said testily, "If all them 
dat's goin-tuh cut de monkey is done cut it and through wid, 
we'll thank Brother Starks fuh a respond." 

So Joe Starks and his cigar took the center of the floor. 

u Ah thanks you all for yo' kind welcome and for extendin' tuh 
me de right hand uh fellowship. Ah kin see dat dis town is full uh 
union and love. Ah means tuh put mah hands tuh de plow heah, and 
strain every nerve tuh make dis our town de metropolis uh de state. 
So maybe Ah better tell yuh in case ycxi don't know dat if we expect 



Their Byes Were Watching Gad 4r 43 

tuh move on, us got tuh incorporate lak every other town. Us got 
tuh incorporate, and us got tuh have uh mayor, if things is tuh be 
done and done right. Ah welcome you all on behalf uh me and mah 
wife tuh dis store and tuh de other things tuh come. Amen." 

Tony led the loud hand-clapping and was out in the center of 
the floor when it stopped. 

"Brothers and sisters, since us can't never expect tuh better 
our choice, Ah move dat we make Brother Starks our Mayor until 
we kin see further.'" 

"Second dat morion!!!" It was everybody talking at once, so 
it was no need of putting it to a vote. 

"And now we'll listen tuh uh few words uh encouragement 
from Mrs. Mayor Starks." 

ITie burst of applause was cut short by Joe taking the floor 
himself. 

"Thank yuh fuh yo' compliments, but mah wife don't know 
liothiii' 'bout no speeclvmakin'. Ah never married her for 
nothin' iak dat. She's uh woman and her place is in de home." 

Janie made her face laugh after a short pause, but it wasn't 
too easy. She had never thought of making a speech, and dicing 
know if she cared to make one at all. It must have been the way 
Joe spoke out without giving her a chance to say anything one 
way or another that took the bloom off of things. But anyway, 
she went down the road behind him that night feeling cold. He 
strode along invested with his new dignity, thought and planned 
out loud, unconscious of her thoughts. 

"De mayor of uh town lak dis can't lay round home too 
much. De place needs buildin' up. Janie, Ah '11 git hold uh some- 
body tuh help out in de store and you kin look after things whilst 
Ah drum up things otherwise." 

"Oh Jody, Ah can't do nothin' wid no store lessen youse there. Ah 
could maybe come in and help you when things git rushed, but—" 



44 J&p Zora Neaie Humon 



"I god, Ah don't sec how come yuh can't. Tain't nothin' 
atall tuh hinder yuh if yuh got uh thimble fall uh sense. You got 
tuh. Ah got too much else on mah hands as Mayor. Dis town 
needs some light right now" 

"Unh hunh, it is uh little dark right long heah." 

"'Course it is. Tain't no use in scufflin' over all dese stumps 
and roots in de dark. Ah'li call uh meetin' bout de dark and de 
roots right away. Ah'li sit on dis case first thing." 

The very next day with money out of his own pocket he sent 
off to Sears, Roebuck and Company for the street lamp and told 
the town to meet the following Thursday night to vote on it. 
Nobody had ever thought of street lamps and some of them said 
it was a useless notion. They went so far as to vote against it, but 
the majority ruled. 

But the whole town got vain over it after it came. That was 
because the Mayor didn't just take it out of the crate and stick it 
up on a post. He unwrapped it and had it wiped off carefully and 
put it up on a showcase for a week for everybody to see. Then he 
set a time for the lighting and sent word all around Orange 
County for one and all to come to the lamplighting. He sent men 
out to the swamp to cut the finest and the straightest cypress post 
they could find, and kept on sending them back to hunt another 
one until they found one that pleased him. He had talked to the 
people already about the hospitality of the occasion. 

"Y'all know we can't invite people to our town just dry long 
so. I god, naw. We got tuh feed 'em something, and 'tain't 
nothin' people laks better 'n barbecue. Ah'II give one whole 
hawg mah ownself. Seem lak all de rest uh y'all put tuhgether 
oughta be able tuh scrape up two mo' K Tell yo' womenfolks 
tuh do 'round 'bout some pies and cakes and sweet p'tater 
pone. " 

That's the way it went, too. The women got together the 



Their Eyes Were Watching God 4r 45 

sweets and the men looked after the meats , The day before the 
iighting > diey dug a big hole in back of the store and filled it full 
of oak wood and burned it down to a glowing bed of coals. It 
took them the whole night to barbecue the three hogs. Hambo 
and Pearson had full charge while the others helped out with 
turning the meat now and then while Hambo swabbed it all 
over with the sauce. In between times they told stories, laughed 
and told more stories and sung songs. They cut all sorts of 
capers and whiffed the meat as it slowly came to perfection with 
the seasoning penetrating to the bone. The younger boys had 
to rig up the saw-horses with boards for the women to use as 
tables. Then it was after sun-up and everybody not needed went 
home to rest up for the feast. 

By five o'clock the town was full of every kind of a vehicle 
and swarming with people. They wanted to see that lamp lit at 
dusk. Near the time, Joe assembled everybody in the street 
before the store and made a speech. 

"Folkses, de sun is goin' down, De Sun -maker brings it up in 
de morning and de Sun-maker sends it tuh bed at night. Us poor 
weak humans can't do nothin' tuh hurry it up nor to slow it 
down. All we can do, if we want any light after de scttin' or befo' 
de risin', is tuh make some light ourselves. So dat's how come 
lamps was made. Dis evenin* weV ail assembled heah tuh light 
uh lamp. Dis occasion is something for us ail tuh remember tuh 
our dyin' day. De first street lamp in uh colored town. Lift yo* 
eyes and gaze on it. And when Ah touch de match tuh dat lamp- 
wick let de light penetrate inside of yuh, and let it shine, let it 
shine, let it shine. Brother Davis, lead us in a word uh prayer. Ask 
uh blessin' on dis town in uh most particular manner," 

While Davis chanted a traditional prayer-poem with his own 
variations, Joe mounted the box that had been placed for the 
purpose and opened the brazen door of the lamp. As the word 



46 *Sm Zora Neaie Hurston 



Amen was said, he touched the lighted match to the wick, and 
Mrs, Bogle's alto burst out in: 

We'll walk in de light, de beautiful light 
Come where the dew drops of mercy shine bright 
Shine all around us by day and by night 
Jesus, the light of the world. 

They, ail of them, all of the people took it up and sung it over 
and over until it was wrung dry, and no further innovations of tone 
and tempo were conceivable. Then they hushed and ate barbecue. 

When it was all over that night in bed Jody asked Janie, 
"Well, honey, how yuh lak bein' Mrs, Mayor?" 

"It's all right Ah reckon, but don't yuh think it keeps us in uh 
kinda strain?" 

"Strain? You mean de cookie* and waitin' on folks?" 

"Naw, Jody, it jus' looks lak it keeps us in some way wc ain't 
natural wid one Mother, You'se always off talkiiv and fixin* 
things, and Ah feels lak Ah'm jus' markin' time, Hope it soon gits 
over," 

"Over, Janie? I god, Ah ain't even started good. Ah told you 
in de very first beginnin' dat Ah aimed tuh be uh big voice. You 
oughta be glad, 'cause dat makes uh big woman outa you." 

A feeling of coldness and fear took hold of her. She felt far 
away from things and lonely, 

Janie soon began to feel the impact of awe and envy against her 
sensibilities. The wife of the Mayor was not just another woman 
as she had supposed. She slept with authority and so she was 
part of it in the town mind. She couldn't get but so close to 
most of them in spirit. It was especially noticeable after Joe had 
forced through a town ditch to drain the street in front of the 



Their Eyes Were Watching God *fr 47 

store. They had murmured hotiy about slavery being over, but 
every man filled his assignment* 

There was something about Joe Starks that cowed the town. 
It was not because of physical fear. He was no fist fighter His 
bulk was not even imposing as men go. Neither was it because he 
was more literate tiian the rest. Something else made men give 
way before him. He had a bow -down command in his face, and 
every step he took made the thing more tangible. 

Take for instance that new house of his. It had two stones with 
porches, with bannisters and such things. The rest of the town 
looked like servants' quarters surrounding the "big house." And 
different from everybody else in the town he put off moving in 
until it had been painted, in and out. And look at the way he 
painted it— a gloaty, sparkly white. The kind of promenading 
white that the houses of Bishop Whipple, W. B. Jackson and the 
VandcrpooPs wore. It made the village feel runny miking to him— 
just like he was anybody else. Then there was the matter of the 
spittoons. No sooner was he ail set as the Mayor — post master — 
landlord— storekeeper, than he bought a desk like Mr. Hill or Mr. 
Galloway over in Maitiand with one of those swing- around chairs 
to it. What with him biting down on cigars and saving his breath 
on talk and swinging round in that chair, it weakened people. And 
then he spit in that gold-looking vase that anybody else would 
have been glad to put on their front-room table. Said it was a spit- 
toon just like his used-to-be bossman used to have in his bank up 
there in Atlanta. Dicing have to get up and go to the door every 
time he had to spit. Didn't spit on his floor neither. Had that 
golded-up spitting pot right handy. But he went further than that. 
He bought a little lady-size spitting pot for Janie to spit in. Had it 
right in the parlor with little sprigs of flowers painted all around the 
sides. It took people by surprise because most of the women 
dipped snuff and of course had a spit-cup in the house. But how 



48 4Bp Zora Neale Humon 



could they know up-to-date folks was spitting in flowery little 
things like that? It sort of made the rest of them feel that they had 
been taken advantage of. Like things had been kept from them. 
Maybe more things in the world besides spitting pots had been hid 
from them, when they wasn't told no better than to spit in tomato 
cans. It was bad enough for white people, but when one of your 
own color could be so different it put you on a wonder. It was iike 
seeing your sister turn into a 'gator. A familiar strangeness. You 
keep seeing your sister in the 'gator and the 'gator in your sister > 
and you'd rather not. There was no doubt that the town respected 
him and even admired him in a way. But any man who walks in the 
way of power and property is bound to meet hate. So when speak- 
ers stood up when the occasion demanded and said "Our beloved 
Mayor," it was one of those statements that everybody says but 
nobody actually believes like "God is everywhere." It was just a 
handle to wind up the tongue with. As time went on and the ben- 
efits he had conferred upon the town receded in time they sat on 
his store porch while he was busy inside and discussed him. Like 
one day after he caught Henry Pitts with a wagon load of his rib- 
bon cane and took the cane away from Pitts and made him leave 
town. Some of them thought Starks ought not to have done that. 
He had so much cane and everything else. But they didn't say that 
while Joe Starks was on the porch. When the mail came from Mait • 
land and he went inside to sort it out everybody had their say. 

Sim Jones started off as soon as he was sure that Starks couldn't 
hear him. 

"It's uh sin and uh shame runnin' dat po' man way from here 
lak dat. Colored folks oughtn't tuh be so hard on one 'nother." 

u Ah don't see it dat way atall," Sam Watson said shortly. "Let 
colored folks learn to work for what dey git lak everybody else. 
Nobody ain't stopped Pitts from plantin' de cane he wanted tuh. 
Starks give him uh job, what mo' do he want?" 



Their Eyes Were Watching God 49 

"Ah know dat too," Jones said, "but, Sam, Joe Starks is too 
exact wid folks- All he got he done made it offa de rest of us. He 
didn't have all dat when he come here-" 

"Yeah, but none uh all dis you see and you'se setrin' on wasn't 
here neither, when he come. Give de devil his due," 

"But now, Sam, you know dat all he do is big-belly round 
and tell other folks what tuh do. He loves obedience out of 
everybody under de sound of his voice-" 

"You kin feel a switch in his hand when he's talkin* to yuh, w 
Oscar Scott complained- "Dat chastisin' feelin' he totes sorter 
gives yuh de protolapsis uh de culinary limn'." 

"He's uh whirlwind among breezes," JefFBruce threw in- 

"Speakin' of winds, he's de wind and we'se de grass- We bend 
which ever way he blows, ^ Sam Watson agreed, "but at dat us 
needs him. De town wouldn't be nothin' if it wasn't for him. He 
can't help bein' sorta bossy- Some folks needs thrones, and rul- 
ing-chairs and crowns tuh make they influence felt. He don't- 
He's got uh throne in de seat of his pants-" 

"Whut Ah don't lak 'bout de man is, he talks tuh unlettered 
folks wid books in his jaws," Hicks complained- "Showin* off his 
iearnin\ lb look at me you wouldn't think it> but Ah got uh brother 
pastorin 7 up round Ocaia dat got good learnin' - If he wuz here, Joe 
Starks wouldn't make no fool outa him lak he do de rest uh y'ali-" 

"Ah often wonder how dat 111 wife uh hisn makes out wid him, 
'cause he's uh man dat changes everything, but nothin' don't 
change him.* 

"You know many's de time Ah done thought about dat malv 
self- He gits on her ever now and then when she make little mis- 
takes round de store-" 

"Whut make her keep her head tied up lak some ole 'oman 
round de store? Nobody couldn't git me tuh tie no rag on mah 
head if Ah had hair lak dat- " 



50 <4BP Zor& Ncalc Hurstoii 



tf Maybe he make her do it* Maybe he skeered some de rest of 
us mens might touch It round dat store, It sho is uh hidden mys- 
tery tuh me." 

"She sho don't talk much, De way he rears and pitches in de 
store sometimes when she make uh mistake is sort of ungodly^ 
but she don't seem to mind at all. Reckon dey understand one 
'nother^ 

The town had a basketful of feelings good and bad about 
Joe's positions and possessions, but none had the temerity to 
challenge him, They bowed down to him rather, because he was 
all of these things, and then again he was all of these things 
because the town bowed down. 



6 




Every morning the world flung itself over and exposed the town to 
the sun. So Janie had another day. And every day had a store in it, 
except Sundays. The store itself was a pleasant place if only she 
didn't have to sell things. When the people sat around on the 
porch and passed around the pictures of their thoughts for the 
others to look at and see, it was nice. The fact that the thought 
pictures were always crayon enlargements of life made it even 
nicer to listen to. 

Take for instance the case of Matt Bonner's yellow mule. 
They had him up for conversation every day the Lord sent. Most 
especial if Matt was there himself to listen. Sam and Lige and 
Waiter were the ringleaders of the mule - talkers. The others direw 
in whatever they could chance upon, but it seemed as if Sam and 
Lige and Walter could hear and see more about that mule than 
the whole county put together. All they needed was to sec Matt's 
long spare shape coming down the street and by the time he got 
to the porch they were ready for him. 

"Hello, Matt," 

"Evening Sam." 

"Mighty glad you come 'long right now, Matt. Me and some 
others wuz jus 1 about tuh come hunt yuh. w 



52 Jfir Zora Neale Hurston 



"Whutfah,Samr 

"Mighty serious matter, man. Serious!!" 

"Yeah mam," lige would cut in, dolefully. "It needs yo' strict 
attention. You ought not tuh lose no time." 

"Whut is it then? You oughta hurry up and tell me." 

"Reckon we better not tell yuh heah at de store. It's too for off 
tuh do any good. We better all walk on down by Lake Sabefia." 

"Whut's wrong, man? Ah ain't after none uh y'alis foolishness 
now.* 

"Dat mule uh yourn, Matt. You better go see 'bout him. He's 
bad off." 

"Where 'bouts? Did he wade in de lake and uh alligator 
ketch him?" 

"Worser'n dat. De womenfolks got yo' mule. When Ah come 
round de lake 'bout noontime mah wife and some others had 'im 
flat on de ground usin' his sides full uh wash board." 

The great clap of laughter that they have been holding in ? 
bursts out. Sam never cracks a smile. "Yeah, Matt, dat mule so 
skinny rill de women is usin' his rib bones foh uh rub-board, and 
hangin' things out on his hock-bones tuh dry." 

Matt realizes that they have tricked him again and the laugh- 
ter makes him mad and when he gets mad he stammers. 

"You'se uh stinkin' lie, Sam, and yo' feet ain't mates. Y-y-y-youf" 

"Awj man, 'tain't no use in you gittin' mad. Yuh know yuh 
don't feed de mule. How he gointuh git fat?" 

"Ah-ah-ah d-d -does feed 'iml Ah g-ggived 'im uh fiill cup 
uh cawn every fcedin'.* 

"Lige knows all about dat cup uh cawn. He hid round yo' 
barn and watched yuh. 'Tain't no feed cup you measures dat 
cawn outa. It's uh tea cup." 

"Ah does feed *im* He's jus' too mean tuh git fat. He stay 
poor and rawbony jus' fuh spite. Skcered he'U hafta work some.* 



Their Byes Were Watching God <*Sr S3 

"Yeah, you feeds 'im. Feeds 'im offa 'come up' and seasons it 
wid raw hide." 

"Does feed de ornery varmint! Don't keer whut Ah do Ah 
can't git long wid 'im. He fights every inch in front uh de plow, 
and even lay back his ears tuh kick and bite when Ah go in de stall 
tuh feed 'im. n 

"Git reconciled, Matt/' lige soothed- "Us ail knows he's 
mean. Ah seen 'im when he took after one nh dem Roberts chiliun 
in de street and woulda caught 'im and maybe trompied 'im tuh 
death if dc wind hadn't of changed all of a sudden. Yuh see dc 
youngun wuz tryin' tuh make it tuh de fence uh Starks' onion 
patch and dc mule wuz dead in behind 'im and gainin' on *im 
every jump, when all of a sudden dc wind changed and blowed de 
mule way off his course, him bein' so poor and everything, and 
before de ornery varmint couid tack, de youngun had done got 
over de fence. " The porch iaughed and Matt got mad again. 

"Maybe dc mule takes out after everybody," Sam said, 
"'cause he thinks everybody he hear comin' is Matt Bonner 
comin' tuh work 'im on uh empty stomach.* 

"Aw, naw, aw, naw. You stop dat right now," Walter objected. 
"Dat mule don't think Ah iook lak no Matt Bonner. He ain't dat 
dumb. If Ah thought he didn't know no better Ah'd have mah 
picture took and give it tuh dat mule so's he could learn better. 
Ah ain't gointuh 'low 'im tuh hold nothin' lak dat against me." 

Matt struggled to say something but his tongue foiled him so 
he jumped down off the porch and walked away as mad as he 
could be. But that never halted the mule talk. There would be 
more stories about how poor the brute was; his age; his evil dispo- 
sition and his latest caper. Everybody indulged in mule talk. He 
was next to the Mayor in prominence, and made better talking. 

Janie loved the conversation and sometimes she thought up 
good stories on the mule, but Joe had forbidden her to indulge. 



54 4kr £ora Neale Hurston 



He didn't want her talking after such trashy people. "You'se Mrs. 
Mayor Starks, Janie. I god, Ah can't see what uh woman uh yo' 
stability would want tuh be treasurin ' all dat gum-grease from folks 
dat don't even own de house dey sleep in. 'Tain't no earthly use. 
They's jus' some puny humans playin' round de toes uh Time." 

Janie noted that while he didn't talk the mule himself, he sat 
and laughed at it. laughed his big heh, hch laugh too. But then 
when Lige or Sam or Walter or some of the other big picture talk™ 
crs were using a side of the world for a canvas, Joe would hustle 
her off inside the store to sell something. Look like he took plea- 
sure in doing it. Why couldn't he go himself sometimes? She had 
come to hate the inside of that store anyway. That Post Office 
too. People always coming and asking for mail at the wrong time. 
Just when she was trying to count up something or write in an 
account book. Get her so hackled she'd make the wrong change 
for stamps. Then too, she couldn't read everybody's writing. 
Some folks wrote so funny and spelt things different from what 
she knew about. As a rule, Joe put up the mail himself, but some- 
times when he was off she had to do it herself and it always ended 
up in a fuss. 

The store itself kept her with a sick headache. The labor of 
getting things down off of a shelf or out of a barrel was nothing. 
And so long as people wanted only a can of tomatoes or a pound 
of rice it was all right. But supposing they went on and said a 
pound and a half of bacon and a half pound of lard? The whole 
thing changed from a little walking and stretching to a mathe- 
matical dilemma. Or maybe cheese was thirty-seven cents a 
pound and somebody came and asked for a dime's worth. She 
went through many silent rebellions over things like that. Such a 
waste of life and time. But Joe kept saying that she could do it if 
she wanted to and he wanted her to use her privileges. That was 
the rock she was battered against. 



Their Eyes Were Watching God 4? 55 

This business of the head-rag irked her endlessly. But Jody 
was set on it. Her hair was NOT going to show in the store. It 
didn*t seem sensible at all. That was because Joe never told Janie 
how jealous he was. He never told her how often he had seen the 
other men figuratively wallowing in it as she went about things in 
the store. And one night he had caught Walter standing behind 
Janie and brushing the back of his hand back and forth across the 
loose end of her braid ever so lightly so as to enjoy the feel of it 
without Janie knowing what he was doing. Joe was at the back of 
the store and Waiter didn't see him. He felt like rushing forth 
with the meat knife and chopping off the offending hand. That 
night he ordered Janie to de up her hair around the store. That 
was all. She was there in the store for him to look at> not those 
others. But he never said things like that. It just wasn't in him. 
Take the matter of the yellow muie, for instance. 

Late one afternoon Matt came from the west with a halter in 
his hand. "Been huntin' fiih mah mule. Anybody seen 'im>" he 
asked. 

"Seen *im soon dis mornin' over behind de schoolhouse," 
Lum said. "'Bout ten o'clock or so. He musta been out all night 
tuh be way over dere dat early." 

"He wuz," Matt answered. "Seen 'im last night but Ah 
couldn't ketch 'im. Ah'm 'bliged mh git 'im in tuhnight 'cause 
Ah got some piowin' fuh tuhmorrow. Done promised tuh plow 
Thompson's grove." 

"Reckon you'll ever git through de job wid dat mule "frame?" 
lige assked. 

"Aw dat mule is plenty strong. Jus' evil and don't want tuh 
be led." 

"Dat's right. Dey tell me he brought you heah tuh dis town. 
Say you started tuh Miccanopy but de mule had better sense and 
bmng yuh on heah." 



56 fljr Zora Ncale Hurston 



"It's nh M-lie! Ah set out fah dis town when Ah left West 
Floridy" 

'Ton mean tuh tell me you rode dat mule all de way from 
Wesr Floridy down heah?" 

"Sho he did, Ligc. But he didn't mean tuh. He wuz satisfied 
up derc, but de mule wuzn't. So one mornin' he got straddle uh 
de mule and he took and brought 'im on off. Mule had seme. 
Folks up dat way don't eat biscuit bread but once uh week." 

There was always a little seriousness behind the teasing of 
Matt, so when he got huffed and walked on off nobody minded. 
He was known to buy side-meat by the slice. Carried home little 
bags of meal and flour in his hand. He didn't seem to mind too 
much so long as it didn't cost him anything. 

Aboiit half an hour after he left they heard the braying of the 
mule at the edge of the woods. He was coming past die store very 
soon. 

"Less ketch Mattes mule fah 'im and have some fan." 

"Now, Lum, you know dat mule ain't airnin' tuh let hisself be 
caught. Less watch you do it," 

When the mule was in front of the store, Lum went out and 
tackled him. The brute jerked up his head, laid back his ears and 
rushed to the attack. Lum had to ran for safety. Five or six more 
men left the porch and surrounded the fractious beast, goosing 
him in the sides and making him show his temper. But he had 
more spirit left than body. He was soon panting and heaving ftom 
the effort of spinning his old carcass about. Everybody was having 
fan at the mule-baiting. All but Janie, 

She snatched her head away from the spectacle and began mut- 
tering to herself "They oughta be shamed uh theyselves! Tcasin' 
dat poor brute beast lak they is! Done been worked tuh death; done 
had his disposition ruint wid mistreatment, and now they got tuh 
finish devilin' 'im tuh death. Wisht Ah had mah way wid 'em aii." 



Their Byes Were Watching God %p 57 

She walked away from the porch and found something to busy 
herself with in the back of the store so she did not hear Jody when 
he stopped laughing. She didn't know that he had heard her, but 
she did hear him yell out, u Lum s I god, dat\s enough! Fall done 
had yo' fun now. Stop yo' foolishness and go tell Matt Bonner Ah 
wants tub have uh talk wid him right away" 

Janie came back out front and sat down. She didn't say any- 
thing and neither did Joe. But after a while he looked down at his 
feet and said, u Janie, Ah reckon you better go fetch me dem old 
black gaiters. Dese tan shoes sets mah feet on fire. Plenty room in 
'em, but they hurts regardless." 

She got up without a word and went off for the shoes. A little 
war of defense for helpless things was going on inside her. People 
ought to have some regard for helpless things. She wanted to fight 
about it. "But Ah hates disagreement and confusion, so Ah better 
not talk. It makes it hard tuh git along. w She didn't hurry back. 
She fumbled around long enough to get her face straight. When 
she got back, Joe was talking with Matt. 

"Fifteen dollars? I god you\sc as crazy as uh betsy bug! Five 
dollars." 

"L4-less we strack uh compermise, Brother Mayor. Less 
m-make it ten." 

"Five dollars. " Joe rolled his cigar in his mouth and rolled his 
eyes away indifferently. 

u If dat mule is wuth somethin' tuh you, Brother Mayor, he's 
wuth mo' tuh me. More special when Ah got uh job uh work 
tuhrnorrow." 

"Five dollars." 

"All right, Brother Mayor. If you wants tuh rob uh poor 
man lak me uh everything he got tuh make uh livin' wid, Ahll take 
de five dollars. Dat mule been wid me twenty-three years. It's 
mighty hard." 



58 4? Zora Ncate Hurston 

Mayor Starks deliberately changed his shoes before he 
reached into his pocket for the money By that time Matt was 
wringing and twisting like a hen on a hot brick. But as soon as his 
hand closed on the money his face broke into a grin. 

"Beatyuh tradin' dat time, Starks! Dat mule is liable tnh be 
dead befo' de week is out. You won't git no work oata him." 

"Didn't buy 'im fuh no work. I god, Ah bought dat varmint 
tuh let 'im rest. You didn't have gumption enough tuh do it." 

A respectful silence fell on the place. Sam looked at Joe and 
said, "Dat's uh new idea 'bout varmints, Mayor Starks. But All laks 
it mah ownseif. It's uh noble thing you done." Everybody agreed 
with that. 

Janie stood still while they all made comments. When it was 
all done she stood in front of Joe and said, "Jody, dat wuz uh 
mighty fine thing fuh you tuh do. 'Tain't everybody would have 
thought of it, 'cause it ain't no everyday thought. Freein' dat 
mule makes uh mighty big man outa you. Something like George 
Washington and Lincoln. Abraham Lincoln, he had de whole 
United States tuh rule so he freed de Negroes. You got uh town 
so you freed uh mule. You have tuh have power tuh free things 
and dat makes you lak uh king uh something." 

Hambo said, "Yo' wife is uh born orator, Starks. Us never 
knowed dat befo'. She put jus' de right words tuh our thoughts," 

Joe bit down hard on his cigar and beamed all around, but he 
never said a word. The town talked it for three days and said 
that's just what they would have done if they had been rich men 
like Joe Starks. Anyhow a free mule in town was something new 
to talk about. Starks piled fodder under the big tree near the 
porch and the mule was usually around the store like the other 
citizens. Nearly everybody took the habit of fetching along a 
handful of fodder to throw on die pile. He almost got fat and 
they took a great pride in him. New lies sprung up about his free- 



Their Eyes Were Watching God jfir 59 

mule doings, How he pushed open Lindsay's kitchen door and 
slept in the place one night and fought until they made coffee for 

his breakfast; how he stuck his head in the Pearsons' window 
while the family was at the table and Mrs. Pearson mistook him 
for R£v. Pearson and handed him a plate; he ran Mrs, Tully off of 
the croquet ground for having such an ugly shape; he ran and 
caught up with Becky Anderson on the way to Maitland so as to 
keep his head out of the sun under her umbrella; he got tired of 
listening to Redmond's long-winded prayer, and went inside the 
Baptist church and broke up the meeting. He did everything but 
let himself be bridled and visit Matt Bonner. 

But way after a while he died. Lum found him under the big 
tree on his rawbony back with all four feet up in the air. That wasn't 
natural and it didn't look right, but Sam said it would have been 
more unnatural for him to have laid down on his side and died like 
any other beast. He had seen Death coming and had stood his 
ground and fought it like a natural man, He had fought it to the last 
breath, Naturally he didn't have time to straighten himself out, 
Death had to take him like it found him, 

When the news got around, it was like the end of a war or 
something like that, Everybody that could knocked off from 
work to stand around and talk. But finally there was nothing to 
do but drag him out like all other dead brutes, Drag him out to 
the edge of the hammock which was far enough off to satisfy san~ 
itary conditions in the town. The rest was up to the buzzards, 
Everybody was going to the dragging^out, The news had got 
Mayor Starks out of bed before time, His pair of gray horses was 
out under the tree and the men were fooling with the gear when 
Janie arrived at the store with Joe's breakfast, 

"I god, Lum, you fasten up dis store good befo* you leave, 
you hear mc?" He was eating fast and talking with one eye out of 
the door on the operations, 



60 <4gp Zora Ncalc Humtm 



"Whut you tcllisi* y im tuh fasten up for, Jody?" Janie asked, 
surprised. 

"'Cause it won't be nobody heah tuh look after dc store. 
Ah'm goin' tuh dc draggin'-out mahsclf." 

"TTain't nothin' so important Ah got tuh do tuhday Jody. 
How come Ah can't go long wid you tuh de draggin'-out?" 

Joe was struck speechless for a minute. "Why, Janie! You 
wouldn't be seen at uh draggin'-out, wouldja? Wid any and 
everybody in uh passle pushin > and shovin' wid they no-manners 
selves? Naw, naw!" 

*You would be dere wid mc, wouldn't yuh?** 

"Dat's right, but Ah'm uh man even if Ah is de Mayor. But 
dc mayor's wife is somethin' different again. Anyhow they's 
liable tuh need me tuh say uh few words over de carcass, dis bein' 
uh special case. But you ain't goin' off in all dat mess uh com- 
monness. Ah'm surprised atyuh fuh askin'." 

He wiped his lips of ham gravy and put on his hat. "Shet de 
door behind yuh> Janie. hum is too busy wid de hawses." 

After more shouting of advice and orders and useless com- 
ments, the town escorted the carcass off. No, the carcass moved 
off with the town, and left Janie standing in the doorway. 

Out in the swamp they made great ceremony over the mule. 
They mocked everything human in death. Starks led off with a 
great eulogy on our departed citizen, our most distinguished cit- 
izen and the grief he left behind bim, and the people loved the 
speech. It made him more solid than building the schoolhouse 
had done. He stood on the distended belly of die mule for a plat- 
form and made gestures. When he stepped down, they hoisted 
Sam up and he talked about the mule as a school teacher first. 
Then he set his hat like John Pearson and imitated his preaching. 
He spoke of die joys of mule-heaven to which the dear brother 
had departed this valley of sorrow^ the mule-angels flying 



Their Eyes Were Watching God ^Sr 61 

around; the miles of green corn and cool water, a pasture of pure 
bran with a river of molasses running through it- and most glori- 
ous of all, No Matt Bonner with plow lines and halters to come in 
and corrupt , Up there, mule -angels would have people to ride on 
and from his place beside the glittering throne, the dear departed 
brother would look down into hell and see the devil plowing 
Matt Bonner all day long in a hell-hot. sun and laying the raw- 
hide to his back, 

With that the sisters got mock- happy and shouted and had to 
be held up by the menfolks, Everybody enjoyed themselves to the 
highest and then finally the mule was left to the already impatient 
buzzards. They were holding a great flying-meet way up over the 
heads of the mourners and some of the nearby trees were already 
peopled with the stoop-shouldered forms. 

As soon as the crowd was out of sight they closed in circles, 
The near ones got nearer and the far ones got near. A circle, a 
swoop and a hop with spread-out wings, Close in, close in till 
some of the more hungry or daring perched on the carcass, They 
wanted to begin, but the Parson wasn't there, so a messenger was 
sent to the ruler in a tree where he sat. 

The. flock had to wait die white-headed leader, but it was 
hard, They jostled each other and pecked at heads in hungry irri- 
tation, Some walked up and down the beast from head to tail, tail 
to head, The Parson sat motionless in a dead pine tree about two 
miles off, He had scented the matter as quickly as any of the rest, 
but decorum demanded that he sit oblivious until he was noti- 
fied. Then he took off with ponderous flight and circled and low- 
ered, circled and lowered until the others danced in joy and 
hunger at his approach, 

He finally lit on the ground and walked around the body to 
see if it were really dead, Peered into its nose and mouth, 
Examined it well from end to end and leaped upon it and 



62 JSP Zora Meale Humon 



bowed, and the others danced a response. That being over, he 
balanced and asked: 

"What killed this man?" 

The chorus answered, "Bare, bare fat." 

"What killed this man?" 

"Bare, bare fat." 

"What killed this man?" 

"Bare, bare fet* 

"Who'll stand his funeral?" 

**We!!!!! w 

"Well, all right now." 

So he picked out the eyes in the ceremonial way and the feast 
went on. The yaller mule was gone from the town except for the 
porch talk, and for the children visiting his bleaching bones now 
and then in the spirit of adventure. 

Joe returned to the store full of pleasure and good humor but 
he didn*t want Janie to notice it because he saw that she was 
sullen and he resented that. She had no right to be, the way he 
thought things out. She wasn't even appreciative of his efforts 
and she had plenty cause to be. Here he was just pouring honor 
all over her; building a high chair for her to sit in and overlook 
the world and she here pouting over it! Not that he wanted any™ 
body else, but just too many women would be glad to be in her 
place. He ought to box her jaws! But he didn't feel like fighting 
today, so he made an attack upon her position backhand. 

*Ah had tuh laugh at de people out derc in de woods dis 
mornin\ Janie. You can't help but laugh at de capers they cuts. 
But all the same, Ah wish mah people would git mo* business in 
'em and not spend so much rime on foolishness." 

"Everybody can't be lak you, Jody. Somebody is bound tuh 
want tuh laugh and play." 



Their Byes Were Watching God 63 

"Who don't love tuh laugh and play?" 

"You make out like you don't, anyhow-" 

"I god, Ah don't make out no such uh lie! But it's uh time 
full all things- But it's awful tuh see so many people don't want 
nothtn* but uh Ml belly and uh place tuh lay down and sleep 
afterwards, It makes me sad sometimes and then agin it makes 
me mad- r Fhey say things sometimes that tickies mc nearly tuh 
death, but Ah won't laugh jus' tuh dis-incourage 'em-" Janie 
took the easy way away from a fuss- She didn't change her mind 
but she agreed with her mouth- Her heart said, "Even so, but 
you don't have to cry about it-" 

But sometimes Sam Watson and Ligc Moss forced a belly 
iaugh out of Joe himself with their eternal arguments- It never 
ended because there was no end to reach- It was a contest in 
hyperbole and carried on for no other reason- 
Maybe Sam would be sitting on the porch when Lige walked 
up- If nobody was thereto speak of, nothing happened- But if the 
town was there like on Saturday night, Lige would come up with 
a very grave air- Couldn't even pass the time of day, for being so 
busy thinking- Then when he was asked what was the matter in 
order to start him off, he'd say, "Dts question done 'bout drove 
mc crazy. And Sam, he know so much into things, Ah wants some 
information on de subject," 

Walter Thomas was due to speak up and egg the matter on- 
"Ycah, Sam always got more information than he know what to do 
wid. He's bound to tell yuh whatever it is you wants tuh know n 

Sam begins an elaborate show of avoiding the struggle- That 
draws everybody on the porch into it- 

"How come you want me tub tell yuh? You always claim 
God done met you round de corner and talked His inside busi- 
ness wid yuh. 'Tain't no use in you askin' me nothin\ Ah*m 
questionizin* you* 



64 Zora Ncale Hurston 



"How you gointuh do dat, Sam > when Ah arrived dis con- 
versation mahsclf? Ah'm askin* you?'" 

"Askin' mc what? You ain't told me de subjick yit-" 
"Don't aim tuh tell yuh! Ah aims tuh keep yith in de dark all 
de time- If you*se smart lak you let on you is, you kin find out-" 
"Yuh skeered to lemme know whut it is, 'cause yuh know 
Ab'll tear it tuh pieces- You got to have a subjick tuh talk from, 
do yuh can't talk- If uh man ain*t got no bounds, he ain't got no 
piace tuh stop- 1 ' 

By this time, they are the center of the world, 
^Wcll all right then. Since you own up you ain*t smart enough 
tuh find out whut Ah'm talkin' *bout ? Ah'll tell you- Whut is it dat 
keeps uh man from gettin' burnt on uh red-hot stove — caution or 
nature?" 

"Shucks! Ah thought you had somethin' hard tuh ast me- 
Walter kin teil yuh dat-" 

"If de conversation is too deep for yuh, how come yuh don't 
tell me so, and hush up? Walter can't tell me nothin' uh de kind- 
Ah'm uh educated man, All keeps mail arrangements in mah 
hands, and if it kept me up ail nightlong studyin* 'bout it, Walter 
ain't liable tuh be no help to me. Ah needs uh man lak you." 

"And then agin, Lige, Ah'm gointuh tell yuh- Ah'm gointuh 
run dis conversation from uh gnat heel to uh lice- It's nature dat 
keeps uh man off of uh red-hot stove-" 

"Uuh huuh? Ah knowed you would going tuh crawl up in 
dat holler! But Ah aims tuh smoke yuh right out- 'Tain't no 
nature at all, it's caution, Sam." 

"'Tain't no sich uh thing! Nature tells yuh not tuh fool wid 
no red-hot stove, and you don't do it neither-" 

"Listen* Sam, if it was nature, nobody wouldn't have tuh look 
out for babies touchin' stoves, would they? 'Cause dey just natu- 
rally wouldn't touch it- But dey sho will- So it's caution." 



Their Eyes Were Watching God <Qr 65 

"Naw it ain't, it's nature, cause nature makes caution. It's de 
strongest thing dat God ever made, now. Fact is it's de onliest 
thing God ever made. He made nature and nature made every- 
thing else." 

"Naw nature didn't neither. A whole heap of things ain't 
even been made yit" 

"Tell me somethin' you know of dat nature ain't made." 

"She ain't made it so you kin ride uh butt-hcaded cow and 
hold on tuh de horns. " 

"Yeah, but dat ain't yo' point/ 

"Yeah it is too." 

"Naw it ain't neither/ 

"Well what is mah point?" 

"You ain't got none, so far." 

"Yeah he is too," Walter cut in. "Dc red-hot stove is his 
point," 

"He know mighty much, but he ain't proved it yit 

"Sam, Ah say it's caution, not nature dat keeps folks off uh 
red-hot stove," 

"How is de son gointuh be before his paw? Nature is de first 
of everything. Ever since self was self, nature been keepin' folks 
off of red-hot stoves. Dat caution you talkin' 'bout ain't nothin' 
but uh humbug. He's uh inseck dat nothin' he got belongs to 
him. He got eyes, lak somethin' else; wings lak somethin' else — 
everything! Even his hum is de sound of somebody else." 

"Man, whut you talkin' 'bout? Caution is de greatest thing in 
de world. If it wasn't for caution — " 

"Show me somethin' dat caution ever made! Look whut 
nature took and done. Nature got so high in uh black hen she got 
tuh lay uh white egg. Now you tell me, how come, whut got 
intuh man dat he got tuh have hair round his mouth? Nature!" 

«Dat ain't™" 



66 Zora Ncale Hurston 



The porch was boiling now. Starks left the store to Hezekiah 
Potts, the delivery boy, and come took a scat in his high chair. 

"Look at dat great big ok scoundrel -beast up dere at HalPs 
fillin' station — uh great big old scoundrel. He eats up all de folks 
outa de house and den eat de house." 

"Aw 'tain't no sich a varmint nowhere dat kin eat no house! 
Dat's uh lie. Ah wuz dere yiste'ddy and Ah ain't seen nothin' lak 
dat. Where is he?" 

"Ah didn't see him but Ah reckon he is in dc back -yard some 
place. But dey got his picture out front dere. They was nailiii* it 
up when Ah come pass dere dis evenin'." 

"Well all right now, if he eats up houses how come he don't 
eat up de Min' station?" 

"Dat's 'cause dey got him tied up so he can't. Dey got uh 
great big picture teliin' how many gallons of dat Sinclair high- 
compression gas he drink at one time and how he's more'n uh 
million years old." 

"'Tain't nothin' no million years old!" 

"De picture is right up dere where anybody kin see it. Dey 
can't make dc picture till dey see de thing, kin dey?" 

"How dey goin' to tell he's uh million years old? Nobody 
wasn't born dat fur back." 

"By de rings on his tail Ah reckon. Man, desc white folks got 
ways for tellin' anything dey wants tuh know." 

"Well, where he been at all dis time, then?" 

"Dey caught him over dere in Egypt. Seem lak he used tuh 
hang round dere and eat up dem Pharaohs' tombstones. Dey got 
dc picture of him doin' it. Nature is high in uh varmint lak dat. 
Nature and salt. Dat's whut makes up strong man Jak Big John de 
Conquer He was uh man wid salt in him. He could give uh fla~ 
vox to anything" 

"Yeah, but he was uh man dat wuz more'n man. Tain't no 



Their Byes Were Watching God 67 

mo' lak him. He wouldn't dig potatoes and he wouldn't rake hay: 
He wouldn't take a whipping, and he wouldn't run away." 

"Oh yeah, somebody else couid if dey tried hard enough- Me 
mahself, Ah got salt in me. If Ah like man flesh, Ah could eat some 
man every day, some of 'em is so trashy they'd let me eat 'em/' 

"Lawd, Ah loves to talk about Big John. Ixss we tell lies on 
Ole John." 

But here come Bootsie, and Teadi and Big 'oman down the 
street making out they are pretty by the way they walk. They have 
got that fresh, new taste about them like young mustard greens 
in the spring, and the young men on the porch are just bound to 
tell them about it and buy them some treats. 

tf Heah come mah order right now," Charlie Jones announces 
and scrambles off the porch to meet them. But he has plenty of 
competition. A pushing, shoving show of gallantry. They all beg 
the girls to just boy anything they can think of. Please let them 
pay for it. Joe is begged to wrap up all the candy in the store and 
order more. All the peanuts and soda water— everything! 

"Gal, Ah'm crazy 'bout you," Charlie goes on to the enter- 
tainment of everybody. "Ah'll do anything in the world except 
work for you and give you mah money.*' 

The girls and everybody else help laugh. They know it's not 
courtship. It's acting-out courtship and everybody is in the play. 
The three girls hold the center of the stage till Daisy Blunt comes 
walking down the street in the moonlight. 

Daisy is walking a drum tune. You can almost hear it by look- 
ing at the way she walks. She is black and she knows that white 
clothes look good on her, so she wears them for dress up. She's 
got those big black eyes with plenty shiny white in them that 
makes them shine like brand new money and she knows what 
God gave women eyelashes for, too. Her hair is not what you 
might call straight. It's negro hair, but it's got a kind of white fla- 



68 Zora Ncalc Hurston 



vor. Like the piece of string out of a ham. It's not ham at all, but 
it's been around ham and got the flavor. It was spread down thick 

and heavy over her shoulders and looked just right under a big 
white hat. 

"Lawd, Lawd> Lawd," that same Charlie Jones exclaims 
rushing over to Daisy. "It must be uh recess in heben if St. Peter 
is lcttin' his angels out lak dis. You got three men already layin* at 
de point uh death 'bout yuh, and heah's uhnother fool dafs 
willin' tuh make time on yo* gang" 

All the rest of the single men have crowded around Daisy by 
this time. She is parading and blushing at the same time. 

"If you know anybody dat's 'bout tub die 'bout me, yuh know 
more'n Ah do," Daisy bridled. tf Wisht Ah knowed who it is." 

"Now, Daisy, you know Jim ? and Dave and Lum is 'bout tuh 
kill one 'nother 'bout you. Don't stand up here and tell dat big 
ole got^dat-wrong." 

"Dey a mighty hush-mouf about it if dey is. Dey ain't never 
toldmenothin'. n 

"Unhunh, you talked too fast. Heah, Jim and Dave is right 
upon de porch and Lum is inside de store." 

A big burst of laughter at Daisy's discomfiture. The boys had 
to act out their rivalry too. Only this time, everybody knew they 
meant some of it. But all the same the porch enjoyed the play and 
helped out whenever extras were needed. 

David said, "Jim don'tlove Daisy. He don'tloveyuhlak Ah do. * 

Jim bellowed indignantly, "Who don't love Daisy? Ah know 
you ain't taikio' 'bout me." 

Dave: "Well all right, less prove dis thing right now. Well 
prove right now who love dis gal de best. How much time is you 
willin' tuh make fob Daisy?" 

Jim: "Twenty ycahsi" 

Dave: "Sec? Ah told yuh dat nigger didn't love yuh. Me, 



Their Eyes Were Watching God 69 

Ah'll beg de Judge tuh hang me, and wouldn't take nothin' less 
than life." 

There was a big long laugh from the porch. Then Jim had to 
demand a test. 

"Pave, how much would you be wiilin' tuh do for Daisy if 
she was to turn fool enough tuh marry yuh?" 

"Me and Daisy done talked dat over, but if you just got tuh 
know, Ah'd buy Daisy uh passenger train and give it tuh her." 

"Humph! Is dat all? Ah'd buy her uh steamship and then 
AhM hire some mens tuh run it far her.' 1 

"Daisy, don't let Jim fool you wid his talk. He don't aim tuh 
do nothin' fuh yuh. Uh lil ole steamship! Daisy, Ah '11 take uh job 
cleanin* out de Atlantic Ocean ftih you any time you say you so 
desire." There was a great laugh and then they hushed to listen. 

"Daisy," Jim began, "you know mah heart and all de ranges 
uh mah mind. And you know if Ah wuz ridin* up in uh earoplane 
way up in de sky and Ah looked down and seen you walkin' and 
knowed you'd have tuh walk ten miles tuh git home, Ah'd step 
backward offe dat earoplane just to walk home wid you. * 

There was one of those big blow-out laughs and Janie was 
wallowing in it. Then Jody ruined it all for her. 

Mrs. Bogie came walking down the street towards the 
porch. Mrs. Bogle who was many times a grandmother, but had 
a blushing air of coquetry about her that cloaked her sunken 
cheeks. You saw a fluttering fan before her face and magnolia 
blooms and sleepy lakes under the moonlight when she walked. 
There was no obvious reason for it, it was just so. Her first hus- 
band had been a coachman but "studied jury" to win her. He 
had finally become a preacher to hold her till his death. Her 
second husband worked in Fohnes orange grove— but tried to 
preach when he caught her eye. He never got any farther than 
a class leader, but that was something to offer her. It proved his 



70 Hp Zora Neal.e Humon 



love and pride- She was a wind on the ocean- She moved men, 
but the helm determined the port- Now, this night she 
mounted the steps and the men noticed her until she passed 
inside the door- 

"I. god, Janie," Starks said impatiently, "why don't you go on 
and see whut Mrs- Bogle want? Whut you waitin' on?** 

Janie wanted to hear the rest of the play-acting and how it 
ended, but she got up sullenly and went inside- She came back to 
the porch with her bristles sticking out ail over her and with dis- 
satisfaction written all over her (ace. Joe saw it and lifted his own 
hackles a bit- 
Jim Weston had secretly borrowed a dime and soon he was 
loudly beseeching Daisy to have a treat on him- Finally she con- 
sented to take a pickled pig foot on him- Janie was getting up a 
large order when they came in, so Lum waited on them- That is, 
he went back to the keg but came back without the pig foot- 
*Mist' Starks, de pig feets is all goneP he calJed out- 
"Aw naw dey ain't, Lum- Ah bought uh whole new kag of 
'em wid dat last order from Jacksonville- It come in yistiddy-" 

Joe came and helped Lum look but he couldn't find the new 
keg either, so he went to the nail over his desk that he used for a 
fiie to search for the order- 

"Jaoie, where's dat iast bill uh iadin'?" 
"It's right dere on de nail, ain't it?" 

"Naw it ain't neither- You ain't put it where Ah told yuh tuh- 
If you'd git yo' mind out de streets and keep it on yo' business 
maybe you could git somethin' straight sometimes* 

"Aw, look around dere, Jody Dat bill ain't apt tuh be gone 
off nowheres- If it ain't hangin' on de nail, it's on yo" desk- You 
bound tuh find it if you look." 

"Wid you heah, Ah oughtn't tuh hafta do all dat lookin* and 
searchin'- Ah done told you time and time agin tuh stick all dem 



Their Byes Were Watching God J&p 71 

papers on dat nail! All you got tub do is mind me- How come you 
can't do lak Ah tell yuh?" 

"You sho loves to teli mc whur to do, but Ah can't tell you 
nothin' Ah see!" 

"Dat's 'cause you need tellin\" he rejoined hotly "It would 
be pitiful if Ah didn't- Somebody got to think for women and 
chillun and chickens and cows. I god, they sho don't think none 
theirselves-" 

"Ah knows uh few things, and womenfolks thinks sometimes 
too!" 

*Aw naw they don't. They just think they's thinkin'- When 
Ah sec one thing Ah understands ten- You see ten things and 
don't understand one-" 

Times and scenes like that put Janie to thinking about the 
inside state of her marriage- Time came when she fought back 
with her tongue as best she could, but it didn*t do her any good- 
It just made Joe do more- He wanted her submission and he'd 
keep on fighting until he felt he had it- 

So gradually, she pressed her teeth togcdier and learned to 
hush- The spirit of the marriage left the bedroom and took to liv- 
ing in the parlor- It was there to shake hands whenever company 
came to visit, but it never went back inside the bedroom again- So 
she put something in there to represent the spirit iike a Virgin 
Mary image in a church- The bed was no longer a daisy-field for 
her and Joe to play in. It was a place where she went and laid down 
when she was sleepy and tired. 

She wasn't petal-open anymore with him- She was twenty- 
four and seven years married when she knew- She found that out 
one day when he slapped her face in the kitchen- It happened 
over one of those dinners that chasten all women sometimes- 
They plan and they fix and they do ? and then some kitchen- 
dwelling fiend slips a scorchy, soggy, tasteless mess into their 



72 <4BP Zora NeaJe Hurston 



pots and pans, Janie was a good cook, and joe had looked for- 
ward to his dinner as a refuge from other things. So when the 
bread didn't rise, and the fish wasn't quite done at the bone, 
and the rice was scorched > he slapped Janie until she had a ring- 
ing sound in her ears and told her about her brains before he 
stalked on back to the store, 

Janie stood where he left her for unmeasured time and 
thought. She stood there until something fell off the shelf inside 
her Then she went inside there to see what it was, It was her image 
of Jody tumbled down and shattered, But looking at it she saw that 
it never was the flesh and blood figure of her dreams, Just some- 
thing she had grabbed up to drape her dreams over, In a way she 
turned her back upon the image where it lay and looked further, 
She had no more blossomy openings dusting pollen over her man, 
neither any glistening young fruit where the petals used to be. She 
found that she had a host of thoughts she had never expressed to 
him, and numerous emotions she had never let Jody know about, 
Things packed up and put away in parts of her heart where he 
could never find them. She was saving up feelings for some man 
she had never seen, She had an inside and an outside now and sud- 
denly she knew how not to mix them, 

She bathed and put on a fresh dress and head kerchief and 
went on to the store before Jody had time to send for her, That 
was a bow to the outside of things, 

Jody was on the porch and the porch was full of Eatonviile as 
usual at this time of the day. He was baiting Mrs, Tony Robbins 
as he always did when she came to the store, Janie could see Jody 
watching her ou t of the corner of his eye while he joked roughly 
with Mrs, Robbins, He wanted to be friendly with her again, His 
big, big laugh was as much for her as for the baiting. He was 
longing for peace but on his own terms, 

"I god, Mrs, Robbins, whut make you come heah and worry 



Their Eyes Were Watching God m 73 



me when you see Ah'm readin' mah newspaper?" Mayor Starks 
lowered the paper in pretended annoyance. 

Mrs. Robbins struck her pity pose and assumed the voice. 

"Cause Ah'm hongry, Mist' Starks. 'Deed Ah is. Me and 
mah chilJun is hongry. Tony don't fee eed me!" 

This was what the porch was waiting for. They burst into a 
laugh. 

"Mrs. Robbins, how can you make out you'se hongry when 
Tony comes in here every Satitday and buys groceries iak a man? 
Three weeks' shame on yuh!" 

"If he buy all dat you taikin' 'bout, Mist' Starks, God knows 
whut he do wid it. He sho don't bring it home, and me and mah 
po' chillun is so hongry! MLst' Starks, please gimme uh iil piece uh 
meat fur me and mah chillun." 

u Ah know you don't need it, but come on inside. You ain't 
goin' tufa lemme read till Ah give it to yuh." 

Mrs. Tony's ecstasy was divine. "Thank you, Mist' Starks. 
You'se noble! You'se du most gentlemanfied man Ah ever did 
see. You'se uh king!" 

The salt pork box was in the back of the store and during the 
walk Mrs. Tony was so eager she sometimes stepped on Joe's 
heels, sometimes she was a little before him. Something like a 
hungry cat when somebody approaches her pan with meat. Run- 
ning a little, caressing a little and ail the time making little urging- 
on cries. 

"Yes, indcedy, Mist' Starks, you'se noble. You got sympathy 
for me and mah po' chiliun. Tony don't give us nothin' tuh eat 
and we'se so hongry. Tony don't fee-eed me!" 

This brought them to the meat box. Joe took up the big 
meat knife and selected a piece of side meat to cut. Mrs. Tony was 
all but dancing around him. 

"Dat's right, Mist' Starks! Gimme uh Iil piece 'bout dis 



74 *Zm Zora Ncale Humon 



wide-" She indicated as wide as her wrist and hand. "Ale and mah 
chillun is so hongry!" 

Starks hardly looked at her measurements. He had seen them 
too often. He marked off a piece much smaller and sunk the blade 
in. Mrs. Tony all but fell to the floor in her agony. 

"Lawd a'mussy! Mist' Starks > you ain't gointuh gimme dat lil 
tee ninchy piece fuh me and ail mah chillun, is yuh> Lawd, we'se 
^hongry!" 

Starks cut right on and reached for a piece of wrapping paper. 
Mrs. Tony leaped away from the proffered cut of meat as if it 
were a rattlesnake. 

"Ah wouldn't tetch it! Dat lil eyeful uh bacon for me and all 
mah chillun! Lawd, some folks is got everything and they's so 
gripin' and so mean!" 

Starks made as if to throw the meat back in the box and close it. 
Mrs. Tony swooped like lightning and seized it, and started towards 
the door. 

"Some folks ain't got no heart in dey bosom. They's willin' 
tuh see uh po* woman and her helpless chillun starve tuh death. 
God's gointuh put 'em under arrest, some uh dese days, wid dey 
stingy gripin' ways. * 

She stepped from the store porch and marched off in high 
dudgeon! Some laughed and some got mad. 

"If dat wuz mah wife," said Walter Thomas, "Ah'd kill her 
cemetery dead* 

"More special after Ah done bought her everything mah 
wages kin stand, lak Tony do," Coker said. "In de fust place All 
never would spend on no woman whut Tony spend on her" 

Starks came back and took his seat. He had to stop and add 
the meat to Tony's account. 

"Weil, Tony tells me tuh humor her along. He moved here 
from up de State hopin' tuh change her, but it ain't. He say he 



Their Byes Were Watching God 4&r 75 

can't bear tuh leave her and he hate to kill her, so 'tain't nothin' 
mh do but put up wid her." 

"Dat's 'cause Tony love her too good," said Coker. "Ah 
could break her if she wuz jnine. Ah'd break her or kill her 
Matin' uh fool outa me in front of everybody." 

"Tony won't never hit her He says beatin' women is just like 
steppm' on baby chickens. He claims 'tain't no place on uh woman 
tuh hit " Joe Lindsay said with scornful disapproval, "but Ah'd kill 
uh baby just born dis mawnin' fbh uh thing lak dat. 'Tain't nothin' 
but low down spitefblness 'ginst her husband make her do it." 

"Dat's de God's truth," Jim Stone agreed. "Dat's de very 
reason." 

Janie did what she had never done before, that is, thrust her- 
self into the conversation. 

"Sometimes God gits familiar wid us womenfolks too and 
talks His inside business. He told me how surprised He was 'bout 
y'all turning out so smart after Him makin' yuh different; and how 
surprised y'all is goin' tuh be if you ever find out you don't know 
half as much 'bout us as you think you do. It's so easy to make yo'~ 
self out God Almighty when you ain't got nodiin' tuh strain 
against but women and chickens." 

"You gettin' too moufy, Janie," Starks told her. "Go fetch me 
de checker- board and de checkers. Sam Watson, you^se mah fish." 




The years took all the fight out of J ante's face. For a while she 
thought it was gone from her soul- No matter what Jody did, 
she said nothing. She had learned how to talk some and leave 
some- She was a rut in the road. Plenty of life beneath the sur- 
face but it was kept beaten down by the wheels. Sometimes she 
stuck out into the nature, imagining her life different from 
what it was. But mostly she lived between her hat and her 
heels, with her emotional disturbances like shade patterns in 
the woods — come and gone with the sun. She got nothing 
from Jody except what money could buy, and she was giving 
away what she didn't value. 

Now and again she thought of a country road at sun-up and 
considered flight. To where? To what? Then too she considered 
thirty-five is twice seventeen and nothing was the same at all. 

"Maybe he ain't nothing" she cautioned herself, "but he is 
something in my mouth. He's got tuh be else Ah ain't got 
nothin' tuh live for. Ahll lie and say he is. If Ah don't, life won't 
be nothin' but uh store and uh house." 

She didn't read books so she didn't know that she was the 
world and the heavens boiled down to a drop. Man attempting to 
climb to painless heights from his dung hill. 



Their Eyes Were Watching God 77 

Then one day she sat and watched the shadow of herself 
going about tending store and prostrating itself before Jody, 
while all the time she herself sat under a shady tree with the wind 
blowing through her hair and her clothes. Somebody near about 
making summertime out of lonesomeness. 

This was the first time it happened, but after a while it got so 
common she ceased to be surprised. It was like a drug. In a way 
it was good because it reconciled her to things. She got so she 
received ail things with the stolidness of the earth which soaks up 
urine and perfume with the same indifference. 

One day she noticed that Joe didn't sit down. He just stood 
in front of a chair and fell in it. That made her look at him all 
over. Joe wasn't so young as he used to be, There was already 
something dead about him. He didn't rear back in his knees any 
longer. He squatted over his ankles when he walked. That still- 
ness at the back of his neck. His prosperous-looking belly that 
used to thrust out so pugnaciously and intimidate folks, sagged 
like a load suspended from his loins. It didn't seem to be a part of 
him anymore. Eyes a little absent too. 

Jody must have noticed it too. Maybe, he had seen it iong 
before Janie did, and had been fearing for her to see. Because he 
began to talk about her age all the time, as if he didn't want her 
to stay young while he grew old. It was always "You oughta 
throw somethin' over yo' shoulders befo' you go outside. You 
ain't no young pullet no mo'. You'se uh ole hen now." One day 
he called her off the croquet grounds. "Dat's somethin' for de 
young folks, Janie, you out derc jumpin' round and won't be 
able tuh git out de bed tuhmorrer." If he thought to deceive 
her, he was wrong. For the first time she could see a man's head 
naked of its skull. Saw the cunning thoughts race in and out 
through the caves and promontories of his mind long before 
they darted out of the tunnel of his mouth. She saw he was 



78 Zora Neaie Hurston 

hurting inside so she iet it pass without talking. She just mea- 
sured out a little time for him and set it aside to wait. 

It got to be terrible in the store. The more his back ached and 
his muscle dissolved into fat and the fat meited off his bones, the 
more fractious he became with Janie. Especially in the store. The 
more peopic in there the more ridicule he poured over her body 
to point attention away from his own. So one day Steve Mixon 
wanted some chewing tobacco and Janie cut it wrong. She hated 
that tobacco knife anyway. It worked very stiff*. She fambied with 
the thing and cut way away from the mark. Mixon didn't mind. 
He held it up for a joke to tease Janie a little. 

"Looka heah, Brother Mayor, whut yo* wife done took and 
done. 7 * It was cut comical, so everybody laughed at it. *Uh woman 
and uh knife — no Mnd of uh knife, don't b'long tuhgether" lliere 
was some more good-natured laughter at the expense of women. 

Jody didn't laugh. He hurried across from the post office side 
and took the plug of tobacco away from Mixon and cut it again. 
Cut it exactly on the mark and glared at Janie. 

tf I god amighty! A woman stay round uh store till she get old 
as Mctliusalem and still can't cut a little thing like a plug of 
tobacco! Don't stand dere roUin' yo' pop eyes at me wid yo* 
rump hangin' nearly to yo' knees!" 

A big laugh started off in the store but peopic got to think* 
ing and stopped. It was funny if you looked at it right quick, but 
it got pitiful if you thought about it awhile. It was like somebody 
snatched off part of a woman's clothes while she wasn't looking 
and the streets were crowded. Then too, Janie took the middle of 
the floor to talk right into Jody's face, and that was something 
that hadn't been done before, 

"Stop inixin* up mah doings wid mah looks, Jody. When you 
git through teliin' me how tuh cut uh plug uh tobacco, then you 
kin tell me whether mah behind is on straight or not." 



Their Eyes Were Watching God 4Br 79 



"Wha— whut's dat you say, Janie> You must be out yo* head." 

u Naw > Ah ain't outa mah head neither.** 

"You must be. Talkin* any such language as dat." 

"You de one started taikin' under people's clothes. Not me." 

"Whut's de matter wid you, nohow? You ain't no young girl 
to be gcttin* all insulted 'bout yo > looks. You ain't no young 
courtin* gal. You'se uh oic woman, nearly forty." 

"Yeah, Ah'm nearly forty and you'se already fifty. How come 
you can't talk about dat sometimes instead of always pointin* at 
mc>" 

"T' ain't no use in getrin' all mad, Janie, 'cause Ah mention 
you ain't no young gal no mo'. Nobody in heah ain't lookin' for 
no wife outa yuh. Old as you is." 

"Naw, Ah ain't no young gal no mo' but den Ah ain't no old 
woman neither. Ah reckon Ah looks mah age too. But Ah'm uh 
woman every inch of me, and Ah know it. Dat's uh whole lot 
more'n you kin say. You big-bellies round here and put out a lot 
of brag, but 'tain't nothin' to it but yo* big voice. Humph! 
Talldn' 'bout me lookin' old! When you pull down yo* britches, 
you look iak de change uh life." 

"Great God from Zion!" Sam Watson gasped. "Y'all really 
playin' de dozens tuhnight." 

"Wha — whut's dat you said?" Joe challenged, hoping his ears 
had fooled him. 

"You heard her, you ain't blind," Walter taunted. 

"Ah ruther be shot with tacks than tuh hear dat 'bout mah- 
self," Lige Moss commiserated. 

Then Joe Starks realized all the meanings and his vanity bled 
like a flood. Janie had robbed him of his illusion of irresistible 
maleness that all men cherish, which was terrible. The thing that 
Saul's daughter had done to David. But Janie had done worse, she 
had cast down his empty armor before men and they had laughed, 



80 i&r Zora Neale Hurston 



would keep on laughing. When he paraded his possessions here- 
after, they would not consider the two together. They'd look with 
envy at the things and pity the man that owned them. When he sat 
in judgment it would be the same. Good-for-nothing's like Dave 
and Lum and Jim wouldn't change place with him. For what can 
excuse a man in the eyes of other men for lack of strength? 
Raggedy-behind squirts of sixteen and seventeen would be giving 
him their merciless pity out of their eyes while their mouths said 
something humble. There was nothing to do in life anymore. 
Ambition was useless. And the cruel deceit of Janic! Making all 
that show of humbleness and scorning him all the time! Laughing 
at him, and now putting the town up to do the same. Joe Starks 
didn't know the words for ail this, but he knew the feeling. So he 
struck janie with all his might and drove her from the store. 




After that night Jody moved his things and slept in a room downstairs. 
He didn't really hate Janie, but he wanted her to think so, He had 
crawled off to lick his wounds. They didn't talk too much around 
the store cither Anybody that didn't know would have thought 
that things had blown over, it looked so quiet and peaceful 
around. But die stillness was the sleep of swords. So new thoughts 
had to be thought and new words said. She didn't want to live like 
that. Why must Joe be so mad with her for making him look small 
when he did it to her ail the time> Had been doing it for years, 
Well, if she must cat out of a long-handled spoon, she must. Jody 
might get over his mad spell any time at all and begin to act like 
somebody towards her, 

Then too she noticed how baggy Joe was getting all over. 
Like bags hanging from an ironing board , A little sack hung from 
the corners of his eyes and rested on his cheek-bones; a loose- 
filled bag of feathers hung from his ears and rested on his neck 
beneath his chin, A sack of flabby something hung from his loins 
and rested on his thighs when he sat down, But even these things 
were running down like candle grease as time moved on. 

He made new alliances too, People he never bothered with 
one way or another now seemed to have his ear. He had always 



82 ^Br Zora Neale Hursion 



been scornful of root-doctors and all their kind, but now she saw a 
faker from over around Altamonte Springs, hanging around the 
place almost daily. Always talking in low tones when she came near, 
or hushed altogether. She didn't know that he was driven by a des- 
perate hope to appear the old-time body in her sight. She was sorry 
about the root-doctor because she feared that Joe was depending 
on the scoundrel to make him well when what he needed was a 
doctor, and a good one. She was worried about his not eating his 
meals> till she found out he was having old iady Davis to cook for 
him. She knew that she was a much better cook than the old 
woman, and cleaner about the kitchen. So she bought a beef-bone 
and made him some soup. 

"Naw, thank you/' he told her shortly. " Ah'm havin' uh hard 
enough time tuh try and git well as it is." 

She was stunned at first and hurt afterwards. So she went 
straight to her bosom friend, Pheoby Watson, and told her about it. 

"Ah'd ruther be dead than for Jody tuh think Ah'd hurt 
him," she sobbed to Pheoby. u It ain't always been too pleasant, 
'cause you know how Joe worships de works of his own hands, 
but God in heben knows Ah wouldn't do one thing tuh hurt 
nobody. It's too underhand and mean." 

"Janie, Ah though maybe de thing would die down and you 
never would know nothin' 'bout it, but it's been singin' round 
here ever since de big fuss in de store dat Joe was 'fixed' and you 
wuz de one dat did it." 

"Pheoby, for de longest time, Ah been feelin' dat somethin' 
set for still- bait, but dis is — is — oh Pheoby! Whut kin I do?" 

"You can't do nothin' but make out you don't know it. It's 
too late fiih y'all tuh be splittin' up and gittin' divorce. Just gVan 
back home and set down on yo' royal diasticuris and sSay nothin'. 
Nobody don't b'lieve it nohow." 

"Tuh think Ah been wid Jody twenty yeahs and Ah just now 



Their Eyes Were Watching God 83 

got tuh bear de name uh poisonin' him! It's 'bout to Mil me, 
Pheoby. Sorrow dogged by sorrow is in mah heart. " 

"Dat's lie dat trashy nigger dat calls hisself uh two-headed 
doctor brought tuh 'im in order tuh git in wid Jody. He seen he 
wuz sick — everybody been knowin' dat for de last longest, and 
den Ah reckon he heard y'all wuz kind of at variance, so dat wuz 
his chance. Last summer dat multiplied cockroach wuz round 
heah tryin' tuh sell gophers!" 

"Pheoby, Ah don't even b'lieve Jody b'lieve dat lie. He ain't 
never took no stock in dc mess. He just make out he b'lieve it tuh 
hurt me. Ah'm stone dead from standin' still and tryin' tuh 
smile.'- 

She cried often in the weeks that followed. Joe got too weak 
to look after things and took to his bed. But he relentiessly 
refused to admit her to his sick room. People came and went in 
the house. This one and that one came into her house with cov- 
ered plates of broth and other sick-room dishes without taking 
the least notice of her as Joe's wife. People who never had known 
what it was to enter the gate of the Mayor's yard unless it were to 
do some menial job now paraded in and out as his confidants. 
They came to the store and ostentatiously looked over whatever 
she was doing and went back to report to him at the house. Said 
things like "Mr. Starks need somebody tuh sorta look out for 'im 
till he kin git on his feet again and look for hisself. n 

But Jody was never to get on his feet again. Janie had Sam 
Watson to bring her the news from the sick room, and when he 
told her how things were, she had him bring a doctor from 
Orlando without giving Joe a chance to refuse, and without say- 
ing she sent for him. 

"Just a matter of time," the doctor told her. "When a man's 
kidneys stop working altogether, there is no way for him to live. 
He needed medical attention two years ago. Too late now." 



84 4^ Zora Ncaie Kucston 



So Janie began to think of Death. Death, that strange being 
with the huge square toes who lived way in the West. The great 
one who lived in the straight house like a platform without sides 
to it, and without a roof What need has Death for a cover, and 
what winds can blow against him? He stands in his high house 
that overlooks the world. Stands watchful and motionless all day 
with his sword drawn back, waiting for the messenger to bid him 
come. Been standing there before there was a where or a when or 
a then. She was liable to find a feather from his wings lying in her 
yard any day now She was sad and afraid too. Poor Jody! He 
ought not to have to wrassle in there by himself. She sent Sam in 
to suggest a visit, but Jody said No. These medical doctors wuz 
all right with the Godly sick, but they didn't know a thing about 
a case like his. HeM be all right just as soon as the two-headed 
man found what had been buried against him. He wasn't going 
to die at all. That was what he thought. But Sam told her differ- 
ent, so she knew. And then if he hadn't, the next morning she was 
bound to know, for people began to gather in the big yard under 
the palm and china-berry trees. People who would not have 
dared to foot the place before crept in and did not come to the 
house. Just squatted under the trees and waited. Rumor, that 
wingless bird, had shadowed over the town. 

She got up that morning with the firm determination to go 
on in there and have a good talk with Jody. But she sat a long 
time with the walls creeping in on her Four walls squeezing her 
breath out. Fear lest he depart while she sat trembling upstairs 
nerved her and she was inside the room before she caught her 
breath. She didn't make the cheerful, casual start that she had 
thought out. Something stood like an oxen's foot on her tongue, 
and then too, Jody, no Joe, gave her a ferocious look. A look with 
all the unthinkable coldness of outer space. She must talk to a 
man who was ten immensities away. 



Their Eyes Were Watching God 85 

He was lying on his side facing the door like he was expect- 
ing somebody or something. A sort of changing look on his face. 
Weak-looking but sharp-pointed about the eyes. Through the 
thin counterpane she could see what was left of his belly huddled 
before him on the bed like some helpless thing seeking shelter. 

The half-w r ashcd bedclothes hurt her pride for Jody. He had 
always been so clean. 

"Whut you doin' in heah, Janie?" 

"Come tuh see 'bout you and how you wuz makin' out." 

He gave a deep-growling sound like a hog dying down in the 
swamp and trying to drive off disturbance. "Ah come in heah tuh 
git shet uh you but look lak hain't doin' me no good. GVan out. 
Ah needs tuh rest." 

"Naw, Jody, Ah come in heah tuh talk widja and Ah'm goin- 
tuh do it too. It's for both of our sakes Ah'm talkin'. " 

He gave another ground grumble and cased over on his back. 

"Jody, maybe Ah ain't been sicb uh good wife tuh you, but 

Jody™" 

"Dat's 'cause you ain't got de right feclin' for nobody. You 
oughter have some sympathy 'bout yo'self. You ain't no hog." 

"But, Jody, Ah meant tuh be awful nice." 

"Much as Ah done fah yuh. Holdin' me up tuh scorn. No 
sympathy!" 

"Naw, Jody, it wasn't because Ah didn't have no sympathy. 
Ah had uh lavish uh dat. Ah just didn't never git no chance tuh 
use none of it. You wouldn't let me." 

"Dat's right, blame everything on me. Ah wouldn't let you 
show no feelin'! When, Janie, dat's all Ah ever wanted or desired. 
Now you come blamin' mef" 

"Tain't dat, Jody. Ah ain't here tuh blame nobody. Ah'm 
just tryin' tuh make you know what kinda person Ah is befo' it's 
too late." 



86 Jft* Zora Neaie Humon 



"Too late?" he whispered. 

His eyes buckled in a vacant-mouthed terror and she saw the 
awful surprise in his face and answered it. 

"Yeah, Jody, don't keer whut dat multiplied cockroach told 
yuh tuh git yo' money, you got ruh die, and yuh can't live." 

A deep sob came out of Jody's weak frame. It was like beat- 
ing a bass drum in a hen-house. Then it rose high like pulling in 
a trombone. 

"Janie* Janie! don't tell me Ah got tuh die, and Ah ain't used 
tuh thinkin* 'bout it." 

"'Tain't really no need of you dying, Jody, if you had of— de 
doctor — but it don't do no good bringui' dat up now Dafs just 
whut Ah wants tuh say, Jody You wouldn't listen. You done lived 
wid me for twenty years and you don't half know me atall. And 
you could have but you was so busy worshippin' de works of yo' 
own hands, and cuffin* folks around in their minds till you didn't 
see uh whole heap uh things yuh could have." 

"Leave heah, Janie. Don't come heah— " 

"Ah knowed you wasn't gointuh lissen tuh me. You changes 
everything but nothin' don't change you — not even death. 
But Ah ain't goin' outa here and Ah ain't gointuh hush. Naw, 
you gointuh listen tuh me one time befe' you die. Have yo' 
way all yo' life, trample and mash down and then die ruther 
than tuh let yo'self heah 'bout it. listen, Jody, you ain't de 
Jody ah run off down de road wid. You'se whut's left after he 
died. Ah run off tuh keep house wid you in uh wonderful way. 
But you wasn't satisfied wid me de way Ah was. Naw! Mah 
own mind had tuh be squeezed and crowded out tuh make 
room for yours in me." 

"Shut up) Ah wish thunder and lightnin' would kill yuh!" 

"Ah know it. And now you got tuh die tuh find out dat you 
got tuh pacify somebody besides yo'self if you wants any love and 



Their Eyes Were Watching God 4SP 87 

any sympathy in dis world. You ain't tried tsih pacify nobody but 
yoVlf. Too busy listening tuh yo* own big voice," 

"All dis tearin' down talk!" Jody whispered with sweat glob- 
ules forming all over his face and arms, "Git outa heah!" 

"All dis bowin* down, all dis obedience under yo* voice — dat 
ain't whut Ah rushed off down de road tuh find out about you." 

A sound of strife in Jody's throat, but his eyes stared unwill- 
ingly into a corner of the room so Janic knew the futile fight was 
not with her. The icy sword of the square-toed one had cut off his 
breath and left his hands in a pose of agonizing protest. Janic 
gave them peace on his breast, then she studied his dead face for 
a long time. 

"Dis sitrin* in dc ruiin' chair is been hard on Jody," she mut- 
tered out loud. She was full of pity for the first time in years. Jody 
had been hard on her and others, but life had mishandled him too. 
Poor Joe! Maybe if she had known some other way to try, she 
might have made his face different. But what that other way could 
be, she had no idea. She thought back and forth about what had 
happened in the making of a voice out of a man. Then thought 
about herself. Years ago, she had told her girl self to wait for her in 
the looking glass. It had been a long time since she had remem- 
bered. Perhaps she'd better look. She went over to the dresser and 
looked hard at her skin and features. The young girl was gone, but 
a handsome woman had taken her place. She tore off the kerchief 
from her head and let down her plentiful hair. The weight, the 
length, the glory was there. She took careful stock of herself, then 
combed her hair and tied it back up again. Then she starched and 
ironed her face, forming it into just what people wanted to see, and 
opened up the window and cried, "Come heah people! Jody is 
dead. Mah husband is gone from me." 



9 




Joe's funeral was the finest thing Orange County had ever seen with 
Negro eyes. The motor hearse, the Cadillac and Buick carriages; 
Dr. Henderson there in his Lincoln; the hosts from far and wide. 
Then again the gold and red and purple, the gloat and glamor of 
the secret orders, each with its insinuations of power and glory 
undreamed of by the uninitiated. People on farm horses and 
mules; babies riding astride of brothers* and sisters' backs. The 
Elks band ranked at the church door and playing "Safe in the 
Arms of Jesus ? with such a dominant drum rhythm that it could 
be stepped off smartly by the long line as it filed inside. The Lit- 
de Emperor of the cross-roads was leaving Orange County as he 
had come — with the out-stretched hand of power. 

Janie starched and ironed her face and came set in the funeral 
behind her veil. It was like a wall of stone and steel. The funeral 
was going on outside. All things concerning death and burial 
were said and done. Finish. End. Nevermore. Darkness. Deep 
hole. Dissolution. Eternity. Weeping and wailing outside. Inside 
the expensive black folds were resurrection and life. She did not 
reach outside for anything, nor did the things of death reach 
inside to disturb her calm. She sent her face to Joe's funeral, and 
herself went rollicking with the springtime across the world. 



Their Byes Were Watching God jfcr 89 

After a while the people finished their celebration and Janie went 
on home. 

Before she slept that night she burnt up every one of her 
head rags and went about the house next morning with her hair 
in one thick braid swinging well below her waist. That was the 
only change people saw in her. She kept the store in the same way 
except of evenings she sat on the porch and listened and sent 
Hezekiah in to wait on late custom . She saw no reason to rush at 
changing things around. She would have the rest of her life to do 
as she pleased. 

Most of the day she was at the store, but at night she was 
there in the big house and sometimes it creaked and cried all 
night under the weight of lonesomeness. Then she'd lie awake in 
bed asking lonesomeness some questions. She asked if she 
wanted to leave and go back where she had come from and try to 
find her mother. Maybe tend her grandmother's grave. Sort of 
look over the old stamping ground generally. Digging around 
inside of herself like that she found that she had no interest in 
that seldom-seen mother at ail. She hated her grandmother and 
had hidden it from herself all these years under a cloak of pity, She 
had been getting ready for her great journey to the horizons in 
search of people; it was important to all the world that she should 
find them and they find her. But she had been whipped like a cur 
dog, and run off down a back road after things. It was all accord- 
ing to the way you see things. Some people could look at a mud- 
puddle and see an ocean with ships. But Nanny belonged to that 
other land that loved to deal in scraps. Here Nanny had taken the 
biggest thing God ever made, the horizon — for no matter how 
far a person can go die horizon is still way beyond you — and 
pinched it in to such a little bit of a thing that she could tie it 
about her granddaughter's neck tight enough to choke her. She 
hated the old woman who had twisted her so in the name of love. 



90 tf& Zora Nealc Hurston 



Most humans didn't love one another nohow, and this mislove 
was so strong that even common blood couldn't overcome it ail 
the time. She had found a jewel down inside herself and she had 
wanted to walk where people could see her and gleam it around. 
But she had been set in the market-place to sell. Been set for still- 
bait When God had made The Man, he made him out of stuff 
that sung all the time and glittered all over. r Fhen after that some 
angels got jealous and chopped him into millions of pieces, but 
still he glittered and hummed. So they beat him down to nothing 
but sparks but each little spark had a shine and a song. So they 
covered each one over with mud. And the lonesome ness in the 
sparks make them hunt for one another, but the mud is deaf and 
dumb. Like all the other tumbling mud-balis, Janie had tried to 
show her shine. 

Janie found out very soon that her widowhood and property 
was a great challenge in South Florida. Before Jody had been 
dead a month, she noticed how often men who had never been 
intimates of Joe, drove considerable distances to ask after her 
welfare and offer their services as advisor 

"Uh woman by herself is uh pitiful thing," she was told over 
and again. u Dey needs aid and assistance. God never meant 'cm 
tuh try tuh stand by thcirselves. You ain't been used tuh knockin' 
round and doin' full yo\self, Mis' Starks. You been well taken 
kecr of, you needs uh man." 

Janie laughed at ail these well-wishers because she knew that 
they knew plenty of women alone; that she was not the first one 
they had ever seen. But most of the others were poor. Besides she 
liked being lonesome for a change. This freedom feeling was fine. 
These men didn't represent a thing she wanted to know about. 
She had already experienced them through Logan and Joe. She felt 
like slapping some of them for sitting around gri nning at her like a 
pack of chesssy cats, trying to make out they looked like love. 



Their Eyes Were Watching God 4? 91 



Ike Green sat on her case seriously one evening on the store 
porch when he was lucky 7 enough to catch her alone. 

"You wants be keerfiJ 'bout who you marry, Mis' Starks. 
Dese strange men runnin' hcah tryin' tuh take advantage of yo' 
condition. " 

"Marry!" Janie almost screamed. u Joe ain't had time tuh git 
cold yet. Ah ain't even give marryin^ de first thought." 

"But you will. You'se too young uh 'oman tuh stay single, 
and you'se too pretty for de mens tuh leave yuh alone. You'se 
bound tuh marry." 

"Ah hope not. Ah mean, at dis present time it don't come 
befo' me. Joe ain't been dead two months. Ain't got settled 
down in his grave." 

"Dat's whut you say now, but two months mo' and you'll 
sing another tune. Den you want tuh be keerful. Womenfolks is 
easy taken advantage of. You know what tuh let none uh dese 
stray niggers dat's settin' round heah git de inside track on yuh. 
They's jes lak uh pack uh hawgs, when dey sec uh full trough. 
Whut yuh needs is uh man dat yuh done lived uhround and know 
all about tuh sort of manage yo* things fah yuh and gineralfy do 
round." 

Janie jumped upon her feet. "Lawd, Ike Green, you'se uh 
case! Dis subjick you bringin' up ain't fit tuh be talked about at 
all. Lemme go inside and help Hezekiah weigh up dat barrel uh 
sugar dat just come in." She rushed on inside die store and whis- 
pered to Hezekiah, "Ah'm gone tuh de house, krarae know 
when dat ole pee-de-bed is gone and Ah'll be right back." 

Six months of wearing black passed and not one suitor had 
ever gained the house porch. Janie talked and laughed in the store 
at times, but never seemed to want to go further. She was happy 
except for the store. She knew by her head that she was absolute 
owner, but it always seemed to her that she was still clerking for 



92 4Sjp Zora Neaie Hurston 



Joe and that soon he would come lei and find something wrong 
that she had done. She almost apologized to the tenants the first 
time she collected the rents. Felt like a usurper. But she hid that 
feeling by sending Hezekiah who was the best imitation of Joe that 
his seventeen years could make. He had even taken to smoking, 
and smoking cigars, since Joe's death and tried to bite 'em tight in 
one side of his mouth like Joe. Every chance he got he was reared 
back in Joe's swivel chair trying to thrust out his Jean belly into a 
paunch. She'd laugh quietly at his no-harm posing and pretend she 
didn't see it. One day as she came in the back door of the store she 
heard him bawling at Tripp Crawford, "Naw indeed, we can't do 
nothin' uh de kind! I god, you ain't paid for dem last rations you 
done et up. I god, you won't git no mo' outa dis store than you 
got money tuh pay for. I god, dis ain't Gimme, Florida, dis is 
Eatonville." Another time she overheard him using Joe's favorite 
expression for pointing out the differences between himself and 
the careless-living, mouthy town. "Ah'm an educated man, Ah 
keep mah arrangements in mah hands." She laughed outright at 
that. His acting didn't hurt nobody and she wouldn't know what 
to do without him. He sensed that and came" to treat her like baby- 
sister, as if to say "You poor litde thing, give it to big brother. He'll 
fix it for you." His sense of ownership made him honest too, 
except for an occasional jaw-breaker, or a packet of sen-sen. The 
sen-sen was to let on to the other boys and the pullet -size girls that 
he had a liquor breath to cover. This business of managing s stores 
and women store-owners was trying on a man's nerves. He needed 
a drink of liquor now and then to keep up. 

When Janie emerged into her mourning white, she had hosts 
of admirers in and out of town. Everything open and frank. Men 
of property too among the crowd, but nobody seemed to get any 
further than the store. She was always too busy to take them to 
the house to entertain. They were all so respectful and stiff' with 



Their Eyes Were Watching God 93 

her, that she might have been the Empress of Japan. They felt 
that it was not fitting to mention desire to the widow of Joseph 
Starts. You spoke of honor and respect. And all that they said and 
did was refracted by her inattention and shot off towards the rim- 
bones of nothing. She and Pheoby Watson visited back and forth 
and once in awhile sat around the lakes and fished. She was just 
basking in freedom for the most part without the need for 
thought. A Sanford undertaker was pressing his cause through 
Pheoby, and Janie was listening pleasantly but undisturbed. It 
might be nice to marry him^ at that. No hurry. Such things take 
time to think about, or rather she pretended to Pheoby that that 
was what she was doing. 

"Tain't dat Ah worries over Joe's death, Pheoby. Ah jus' 
loves dis freedom." 

"Sh~sh-sh! Don't let nobody hear you say dat, Janie. Folks 
will say you ain't sorry he's gone. " 

"Let 'em say whut dey wants tuh, Pheoby. To my thinkin' 
mourning oughtn't tuh last no longer' n grief." 




One day Hezekiah asked off from work to go off with the ball team. 
Janic told him not to hurry back. She could close up the store 
herself this once. He cautioned her about the catches on the win- 
dows and doors and swaggered off to Winter Park. 

Business was dull ail day > because numbers of people had 
gone to the game. She decided to close early, because it was 
hardly worth the trouble of keeping open on an afternoon like 
this. She had set six o'clock as her limit. 

At five-thirty a tall man came into the place. Janie was lean- 
ing on the counter making aimless pencil marks on a piece of 
wrapping paper, She knew she didn't blow his name, but he 
looked familiar. 

"Good evening Mis' Starks," he said with a sly grin as if they 
had a good joke together. She was in favor of the story that was 
making him laugh before she even heard it. 

"Good evening * she answered pleasandy. "You got all dc 
advantage 'cause Ah don't knowyo' name." 

"People wouldn't know me lak dey would you" 

"Ah guess standin' in uh store do make nh person git tuh be 
known in de vicinity. Look lak Ah seen you somewhere." 

"Oh, Ah don't live no further than Orlandah. Ah'm easy 



Their Eyes Were Watching God 4S» 95 

tuh see on Church Street most any day or night. You got any 
ssmokin' tobacco? " 

She opened the glass case. "What kind?" 

"Camels." 

She handed over the cigarettes and took the money He 
broke the pack and thrust one between his full, purple lips. 

"You got a 111 piece uh fire over dere, lady?" 

They both laughed and she handed him two kitchen matches 
out of a box for that purpose. It was time for him to go but he 
didn't. He leaned on the counter with one elbow and cold- 
cocked her a look. 

''Why ain't you at de ball game, too? Everybody else is dere." 

"Well, Ah see somebody else besides me ain't dere. Ah just 
sold some cigarettes." They laughed again. 

"Dat's 'cause Ah'm dumb. Ah got de thing all mixed up. Ah 
thought de game was gointuh be out at Hungerford. So Ah got uh 
ride tuh where dis road turns off from de Dixie Highway and 
walked over here and then Ah find out de game is in Winter Park." 

That was funny to both of them too. 

"So what you gointuh do now? All de cars in Eatonvillc is 
gone." 

"How about playin' you some checkers? You looks hard tuh 
beat." 

"Ah is, 'cause Ah can't play uh lick." 
"You don't cherish de game, then?" 

"Yes, Ah do, and then agin Ah don't know whether Ah do or 
not, 'cause nobody ain't never showed me how." 

"Dis is de last day for dat excuse. You got uh board round 
heah?" 

"Yes indeed. De men folks treasures de game round heah. Ah 
just ain't never learnt how." 

He set it up and began to show her and she found herself 



96 4Sr Zora Ncak Humon 



glowing inside. Somebody wanted her to play Somebody thought 
it natural for her to play That was even nice. She looked him over 
and got little thrills from every one of his good points. Those fall, 
lazy eyes with the lashes curling sharply away like drawn scimitars. 
The lean^ over-padded shoulders and narrow waist. Even nice! 

He was jumping her king! She screamed in protest against 
losing the king she had had such a hard time acquiring. Before 
she knew it she had grabbed his hand to stop him. He struggled 
gallandy to free himself. That is he struggled, but not hard 
enough to wrench a lady's fingers. 

"Ah got uh right tuh take it. You left it right in mah way" 

"Yeah, but Ah wuz iookin' off when you went and stuck yo' 
men right up next tuh mine. No fair!" 

"You ain't supposed tuh look off, Mis' Starks. It's de biggest 
part uh de game tuh watch out! Leave go mah hand." 

"No suh! Not mah king. You kin take another one, but not 
dat one." 

They scrambled and upset the board and laughed at that. 

"Anyhow it's time for uh Coca-Cola," he said. "Ah '11 come 
teach yuh some mo' another time." 

"It' s all right tuh come teach me, but don't come tuh 
cheat me," 

"Yuh can't beat uh woman. Dey jes won't stand fiih it. But 
Ah'li come teach yuh agin. You gointuh be uh good player too, 
after while." 

"You reckon so? Jody useter tell me Ah never would learn. It 
wuz too heavy fuh mah brains." 

"Folks is playin' it wid sense and folks is playin' it without. 
But you got good meat on yo' head. You'll learn. Have uh cool 
drink on me." 

"Oh all right, thank yuh. Got plenty cold ones tuhday. 
Nobody ain't been heah tuh buy none. All gone off tuh de game." 



Their Eyes Were Watching God 97 

"You oughta be at de next game. Tain't no use in you stayin' 
heah if everybody else is gone. You don't buy from yo'self, do yuh?" 

"You crazy thing! 'Course Ah don't. But Ah'm worried 
'bout you uh little." 

"How come? 'Fraid Ah ain't gointuh pay foh dese drinks? n 

"Aw naw! How you gointuh git back home?" 

"Wait round heah fuh a car. If none don't come, Ah got 
good shoe leather. 'Tain't but seben miles no how. Ah could walk 
dat in no time. Easy." 

"If it wuz me, Ah'd wait on uh train. Seben miles is uh kinda 
long walk." 

"It wouid be for you, 'cause you ain't used to it. But Ah'm seen 
women walk further' n dat. You could too, if yuh had it tuh do." 

"Maybe so, but Ah'll ride de train long as Ah got railroad 
fare." 

"Ah don't need no pocket-full uh money to ride de train iak 
uh woman. When Ah takes uh notion Ah rides anyhow— money 
or no money." 

"Now ain't you something Mr. cr — er— You never did tell 
me whut yo' name wuz." 

"Ah sho didn't. Wuzn't expectin' fuh it to be needed. De 
name mah mama gimme is Vergibie Woods. Dey calls me Tea 
Cake for short." 

"Tea Cake! So you sweet as all dat?" She laughed and he gave 
her a litdc cut-eye look to get her meaning. 

"Ah may be guilty. You better try me and see." 

She did something halfway between a laugh and a frown and 
he set his hat on straight. 

"B'lieve Ah done cut uh hawg, so Ah guess Ah better ketch 
air." He made an elaborate act of tipping to the door stealthily. 
Then looked back at her with an irresistible grin on his face. 
Janie burst out laughing in spite of herself. "You crazy thing!" 



98 4Sr Zora NeaJe Hursron 

He turned and threw his hat at her fcet. "If she don^t throw 
it at me, Ah'li take a chance on comin' back," he announced, 
making gestures to indicate he was hidden behind a pOsSt. She 
picked up the hat and threw it after him with a laugh. "Even if she 
had uh brick she couldn't hurt yuh wid it," he said to an invisible 
companion. u De lady can't throw" He gestured to his compan- 
ion, stepped out from behind the imaginary lamp post, set his 
coat and hat and strolled back to where Janie was as if he had just 
come in the store. 

"Evening Mis' Starks. Could yuh lemme have uh pound uh 
knuckle puddin 7 * till Saturday? Ah'm sho tuh pay yuh then." 

"You needs ten pounds, Mr. Tea Cake. Ah 'II let yuh have all 
Ah got and you needn^t bother 'bout payin' it back." 

They joked and went on till the people began to come in. 
Then he took a seat and made talk and laughter with the rest until 
closing time. When everyone else had left he said, "Ah reckon Ah 
done over-layed mah leavin' time, but Ah figgured you needed 
somebody tuh help yuh shut up de place. Since nobody else ain't 
round heah, maybe Ah kin git de job." 

"Thankyuh, Mr, Tea Cake. It is kinda strainin' fuh me." 

"Who ever heard of uh teacake bein' called Mister! If you 
wanta be real hightoned and call me Mr. Woods, dat's de way you 
feel about it. If yuh wants tuh be uh lii friendly and call me lea 
Cake, dat would be real nice." He wan closing and bolting win- 
dows all the time he talked. 

"All right, then. Thank yuh, Ilea Cake. How's dat?" 

"Jes lak uh lil girl wid her Easter dress on. Even nice!" He 
locked the door and shook it to be sure and handed her the key. 
"Come on now, Ah '11 see yuh inside yo' door and git on down 
de Dixie." 



*A beating with the list. 



Their Eyes Were Watching God 3jp 99 



Janic was halfway down the palm-lined walk before she had a 
thought for her safety. Maybe this strange man was up to some- 
thing! But it was no place to show her fear there in the darkness 
between the house and die store. He had hold of her arm too. 
Then in a moment it was gone. Tea Cake wasn't strange. Seemed 
as if she had known him all her life. Look how she had been able 
to talk with him right off! He tipped his hat at the door and was off 
with the briefest good night. 

So she sat on the porch and watched the moon rise. Soon its 
amber fluid was drenching the earth, and quenching the thirst of 
die day. 




Janie wanted to ask Hezekiah about Tea Cake, but she was afraid 
he might misunderstand her and think she was interested. In the 
first place he looked too young for hen Must be around twenty- 
five and here she was around forty. Then again he didn't look like 
he had too much. Maybe he was hanging around to get in with 
her and strip her of all that she had. Just as well if she never saw 
him again. He was probably the kind of man who lived with var- 
ious women but never married. Fact is, she decided to treat him 
so cold if he ever did foot the place that hcM be sure not to come 
hanging around there again* 

He waited a week exactly to come back for Janie's snub. It 
was early in the afternoon and she and Hezekiah were alone. She 
heard somebody humming like they were feeling for pitch and 
looked towards the door. Tea Cake stood there mimicking the 
tuning of a guitar. He frowned and struggled with die pegs of his 
imaginary instrument watching her out of the corner of his eye 
with that secret joke playing over his face. Finally she smiled and 
he sung middle C, put his guitar under his arm and walked on 
back to where she was. 

"Evening folks. Thought y'all might lak uh lil musk this 
evenin* so Ah brought long mah box." 



Their Eyes Were Watching God 101 



"Crazy thing! * Janie commented, beaming out with light. 
He acknowledged the compliment with a smile and sat down 
on a box. "Anybody have uh Coca-Cola wid me?" 

"Ah just had one," Janie temporized with her conscience. 
"It'll hafter be done all over agin, Mis 1 Starks." 
"How come?" 

"'Cause it wasn't done right dat time, 'Kiah bring us two 
botties from de bottom nil de box." 

"How you been makin' out since Ah seen yuh last, Tea 
Cake? 15 

"Can't kick. Could be worse. Made four days dis week and 
got de pay in mah pocket." 

"We got a rich man round here, then. Buyin' passenger trains 
uh batdeships this weekr" 

"Which one do you want? It all depends on you." 

"Oh, ifyou'se treatin' me tuh it, Ah brieve Ah'll take de pas- 
senger train. If it b!ow up Ah II still be on land." 

"Choose de battleship if dat's whut you really want. Ah know 
where one is right now. Seen one round Key West de other day." 

"How you gointuh git it?" 

"Ah shucks, dem Admirals is always ole folks. Can't no ole 
man stop me from gittin' no ship for yuh if dat's whut you want. 
Ah'd git dat ship out from under him so slick till he'd be walkin' 
de water lak ole Peter befo' he knowed it." 

They played away the evening again. Everybody was surprised 
at Janie playing checkers but they liked it. Three or four stood 
behind her and coached her moves and generally made merry with 
her in a restrained way. Finally everybody went home but Tea Cake* 

"You kin close up, 'Kiah," Janie said. "Think Ah'U g'wan 
home." 

Tea Cake fell in beside her and mounted the porch this time. 
So she offered him a seat and they made a lot of laughter out of 



102 & Zora Neale Hurston 



nothing. Near eleven o'clock she remembered a piece of pound 
cake she had put away. Tea Cake went out to the lemon tree at 
the corner of the kitchen and picked some lemons and squeezed 
them for her So they had lemonade too. 

"Moon's too pretty fth anybody tub be sleepin' it away," Tea 
Cake said after they had washed up the plates and glasses. "Less 
us gofishinV 

"Fishin'> Dis time uh night?" 

"Urihhunh, fishin\ Ah know where de bream is beddin\ 
Seen 'em when Ah come round de lake dis evenin'. Where's yo' 
fishin' poles? Less go set on de lake." 

It was so crazy digging worms by iamp light and setting out 
for Lake Sabelia after midnight that she felt like a child breaking 
rules. That's what made Janie like it. They caught two or three 
and got home just before day Then she had to smuggle Tea Cake 
out by the back gate and that made it seem like some great secret 
she was keeping from the town. 

"Mis' Janie," Hez^kiah began sullenly next day, "you oughtn't 
'low dat Tea Cake tab be waikin' tuh de house wid yuhu Ah'U go 
wid yuh mahsclf after dis, if you'se skeered- w 

"What's de matter wid Tea Cake, 'Kiah? Is he uh thief uh 
something" 

"Ah ain't never heard nobody say he stole notbinV 
"Is he bad 'bout totin' pistols and knives tuh hurt people 
wid?" 

"Dey don't say he ever cut nobody or shot nobody neither." 

"Well, is he — he — is he got uh wife or something lak dat? 
Not dat it's any uh mah business." She held her breath for the 
answer. 

"No'm. And nobody wouldn't marry Tea Cake tuh starve 
tuh death lessen it's somebody jes lak him — ain't used to nothin'. 
'Course he always keep hisself in changin' clothes. Dat long- 



Their Eyes Were Watching God 4p 103 

iegged Tea Cake ain't got doodly squat. He ain't got no business 
makin' hisscf familiar wid nobody lak you. Ah said Ah wuz goin* 
to tell yuh so yuh could know." 

"Oh dat's ail right, Hezekiah. Thank yuh mighty much." 

The next night when she mounted her steps Tea Cake was 
there before her, sitting on the porch in the dark. He had a string 
of fresh-caught trout for a present. 

"Ah'll clean 'em, you fry 'em and let's eat," he said with the 
assurance of not being refused. They went out into the kitchen 
and fixed up the hot fish and corn muffins and ate. Then Tea 
Cake went to the piano without so much as asking and began 
playing blues and singing, and throwing grins over his shoulder. 
The sounds lulled Janie to soft slumber and she woke up with Tea 
Cake combing her hair and scratching the dandruff from her 
scalp. It made her more comfortable and drowsy. 

"Tea Cake, where you git uh comb from ttih be combin' mah 
hair wid?" 

"Ah brought it wid me. Come prepared tuh lay mah hands 
on it tuhnight." 

"Why, Tea Cake? Whut good do combin' mah hair do you? 
It's mah comfortable , not yourn." 

"It's mine too. Ah ain't been sieepin' so good for more'n uh 
week cause Ah been wishin' so bad tuh git mah hands in yo' hair. 
It's so pretty. It feels jus' iak underneath uh dove's wing next to 
mah face," 

u Umph! You'se mighty easy satisfied. Ah been had dis same 
hair next tuh mah face ever since Ah cried de first time, and ''t^in't 
never gimme me no thrill." 

"Ah tell you lak you told me — you'se mighty hard tuh satisfy. 
Ah betcha dem lips don't satisfy yuh neither." 

"Dat's right, Tea Cake. They's dere and Ah make use of 'em 
whenever it's necessary, but nothin' special tuh me." 



104 JSP Zora Ncak Hurston 



"Umph! umph! umph! Ah betcha you don't never go tuh de 
lookin ? glass and enjoy yo' eyes yo'self You lets other folks git all 
de enjoyment out of 'cm 'thouttakin' in any of it yo'seif- w 

"Naw, Ah never gazes at 'em in de lookin 1 glass- If anybody 
else gits any pleasure out of 'em Ah ain't been told about it-" 

"See dat? You'se got de world in uh jug and make out you 
don't know it. But Ah'm glad tuh be de one tuh tell yuh-" 

"Ah guess you done told plenty women all about it." 

"Ah'm de Apostle Paul tuh de Gentiles- Ah tells 'em and then 
agin Ah shows 'em." 

"Ah thought so." She yawned and made to get up from the 
sofa, "You done got me so sleepy wid yo 1 head-scratchin 1 Ah kin 
hardly make it tuh de bed-" She stood up at once, collecting her 
hair. He sat still- 

"NaWj you ain't sieepy, Mis' Janie- You jus 1 want me tuh go- 
You figger Ah'm uh rounder and uh pimp and you done wasted 
too much time talkm 1 wid me-" 

"Why, Tea Cake! Whut ever put dat notion in yo 1 head?" 

"De way you looked at me when Ah said whut Ah did- Yo 1 
face skeered me so bad till mah whiskers drawed up-" 

"Ah ain't got no business bein 1 mad at nothin 1 you do and 
say- You got it all wrong- Ah ain't mad ataU- " 

"Ah know it and dat's what puts de shamery on me- You'se 
jus' disgusted wid me- Yo 1 face jus' left here and went off 
somewhere else- Naw, you ain't mad wid me- Ah be glad if you 
was, 'cause then Ah might do something tuh please yuh- But 
lak it is—" 

"Mah likes and dislikes ought not tuh make no difference 
wid you 7 Tea Cake. Dat's fuh yo' lady friend- Ah'm jus 1 uh some- 
time friend uh yourn-" 

Janie walked towards the stairway slowly, and Tea Cake sat 
where he was, as if he had frozen to his seat, in fear that once he 



Their Eyes Were Watching God ^ 105 



got op, he'd never get back in it again. He swallowed hard and 
looked at her walk away, 

"Ah didn't aim tuh let on tuh yuh 'boot it, leastways not 
right away, but Ah ruther be shot wid tacks than rub you tuh act 
wid me lak you is right now. You got me in de go-long,** 

At the newel post Janie whirled around and for the space of a 
thought she was lit up like a transfiguration. Her next thought 
brought her crashing down. He's just saying anything for the 
time being, feeling he*s got me so I'll b'lievc him. The next 
thought buried her under tons of cold futility. He's trading on 
being younger than me. Getting ready to laugh at me for an old 
fool. But oh, what wouldn't I give to be twelve years younger so 
I could b'lievc him! 

*Aw, Tea Cake, you just say dat tuhnight because de fish and 
com bread tasted sort of good. Tomorrow yo' mind would 
change, 7 * 

"Naw, it wouldn't neither. Ah know better." 

"Anyhow from what you toid me when we wuz back dere in 
de kitchen Ah*rn nearly twelve years older than you," 

"Ah done thought all about dat and tried tuh struggle aginst 
it, but it don't do me no good, De thought uh mah youngness 
don*t satisfy me lak yo* presence do," 

"It makes uh whole heap uh difference wid most folks. Tea 
Cake,'* 

"Things lak dat got uh whole lot tuh do wid convenience, 
but it ain't got nothin* tuh do wid love," 

"Weil, Ah love tuh find out whut you think after sun-up 
tomorrow, Dis is jus' yo' night thought," 

"You got yo* ideas and Ah got mine. Ah got uh dollar dat 
says you'se wrong. But Ah reckon you don't bet money, nei- 
ther." 

"Ah never have done it so far. But as de old folks always say, 



106 f&P Zora Neale Hurston 



Ah'm born but Ah ain't dead. No tellin' whut Ah'm liable tuh do 
yet." 

He got up suddenly and took his hat. "Good night, Mis' 
Janie. Look lak we done run our conversation from grass roots 
tuh pine trees. G'bye." He almost ran out of the door. 

Janie hung over the newel post thinking so long that she all 
but went to sleep there. However^ before she went to bed she 
took a good look at her mouth, eyes and hair. 

All next day in the house and store she thought resisting 
thoughts about Tea Cake. She even ridiculed him in her mind 
and was a little ashamed of the association. But every hour or 
two the battle had to be fought all over again. She couldn't 
make him look just like any other man to her. He looked like the 
love thoughts of women. He could be a bee to a blossom — a 
pear tree blossom in the spring. He seemed to be crushing scent 
out of the world with his footsteps. Crushing aromatic herbs 
with every step he took. Spices hung about him. He was a 
glance from God. 

So he didn*t come that night and she laid in bed and pre- 
tended to think scornfiilly of him. "Bet he's hangin' round some 
jook or 'nother. Glad Ah treated him cold. Whut do Ah want wid 
some trashy nigger out de streets? Bet he's livm' wid some 
woman or 'nother and takin' me for uh fool. Glad Ah caught 
mahself in time." She tried to console herself that way. 

The next morning she awoke hearing a knocking on the 
front door and found Tea Cake there. 

"Hello, Mis' Janie, Ah hope Ah woke you up." 

"You sho did, Tea Cake. Come in and rest yo' hat. Whut you 
doin' out so soon dis morning" 

"Thought AhM try tuh git heah soon enough tuh tell yuh 
mah daytime thoughts. Ah see yuh needs tuh know mah daytime 
feelings. Ah can't sense yuh intuh it at night." 



Their Eyes Were Watching God 4^ 107 



"You crazy thing! Is dat whut you come here for at day- 
break?" 

"Sho is. You needs tellin' and showin', and dat's whut Ah'm 
doin'. Ah picked some strawberries too, Ah figgered you might like " 

"Tea Cake, Ah Vlare Ah don't know whut tuh make outa 
you. You'sc so crazy You better iemme fix you some breakfast.*" 

"Ain't got time. Ah got uh job uh work. Gottuh be back in 
Orlandah at eight o'clock. Sec yuh later, tell you straighten" 

He bolted down the walk and was gone. But that night when 
she left the store, he was stretched out in the hammock on the 
porch with his hat over his face pretending to sleep. She called 
him. He pretended not to hear. He snored louder. She went to 
the hammock to shake him and he seized and pulled her in with 
him. After a little, she let him adjust her in his arms and laid there 
for a while. 

"Tea Cake, Ah don't know 'bout you, but Ah'm hongry, 
come on let's eat some supper." 

They went inside and dieir laughter rang out first from the 
kitchen and all over the house. 

Janie awoke next morning by feeling Tea Cake almost kissing 
her breath away. Holding her and caressing her as if he feared she 
might escape his grasp and fly away. Then he must dress hurriedly 
and get to his job on rime. He wouldn't let her get him any 
breakfast at all. He wanted her to get her rest. He made her stay 
where she was. In her heart she wanted to get his breakfast for 
him. But she stayed in bed long after he was gone. 

So much had been breathed out by the pores that Tea Cake 
still was there. She could feel him and almost sec him bucking 
around the room in the upper air. After a long time of passive 
happiness, she got up and opened the window and let Tea Cake 
leap forth and mount to the sky on a wind. That was the begin- 
ning of things. 



108 iSr Zora Ncale Hurston 



In the cool of the afternoon the fiend from hell specially sent 
to lovers arrived at Janie's ear. Doubt. All the fears that circum- 
stance could provide and the heart feel, attacked her on every 
side. This was a new sensation for her, but no less excruciating. If 
only Tea Cake would make her certain! He did not return that 
night nor the next and so she plunged into the abyss and 
descended to the ninth darkness where light has never been. 

But the fourth day after he came in the afternoon driving a 
battered car. Jumped out like a deer and made the gesture of 
tying it to a post on the store porch. Ready with his grin! She 
adored him and hated him at the same time. How could he make 
her suffer so and then come grinning like that with that darling 
way he had? He pinched her arm as he walked inside the door, 

"Brought me somethin' tub haul you off in/* he told her 
with that secret chuckle. "Git yo' hat if you gointuh wear one. 
We got tub go buy groceries. n 

"Ah sells groceries right here in dis store, Tea Cake, if you 
don't happen tuh know." She tried to look coid but she was smil- 
ing in spite of herself. 

"Not de kind we want fuh de occasion. You sells groceries for 
ordinary people. We'se gointuh buy for you. De big Sunday 
School picnic is tomorrow — bet you done forget it — and we got 
tuh be derc wid uh swell basket and ourselves. * 

"Ah don't know 'bout dat, Tea Cake. Tell yuh whut you do. 
G'wan down tuh de house and wait for me. Be dcre in uh 
minute." 

As soon as she thought it looked right she slipped out of the 
back and joined Tea Cake. No need of fooling herself. Maybe he 
was just being polite. 

"Tea Cake, you sure you want me tuh go tuh dis picnic wid 
yuh>* 

"Me scramble 'round tuh git de money tuh take yuh — been 



Their Eyes Were Watching God 109 

workin ? lak uh dawg for two whole weeks—and she come astin' 
me if Ah want her tuh go! Puttin' mahscif tuh uh whole heap uh 
trouble tuh git dis car so you kin go over tuh Winter Park or 
Orlandah tuh buy de things you might need and dis woman set 
dere and ast me if Ah want her tuh go! " 

"Don't git mad 5 Tea Cake, Ah just didn't want you doin' 
nothin* ouia politeness, If dere's somebody else youM ruther take, 
it's ail right wid me." 

"Naw, it ain't all right wid you, If it was you wouldn't be sayin' 
dat, Have de nerve tuh say whut you mean," 

"Well, all right, Tea Cake, Ah wants tuh go wid you real bad, 
but,— oh, Tea Cake, don't make no false pretense wid meP' 

"Janie, Ah hope God may kilS me, if Ah'm lyin\ Nobody else 
on earth kin hold uh candle tuh you, baby You got de keys to de 
kingdom," 




It was after the picnic that the town began to notice things and got 
mad. Tea Cake and Mrs. Mayor Starks! All the men that she could 
get, and fooling with somebody like Tea Cake! Another thing, Joe 
Starks hadn't been dead but nine months and here she goes sashay- 
ing off to a picnic in pink linen. Done quit attending church* like 
she used to. Gone off to Sanford in a car with Tea Cake and her all 
dressed in blue! It was a shame. Done took to high heel slippers and 
a ten dollar hat! looking like some young girl, always in blue 
because Tea Cake told her to wear it, Poor Joe Starks. Bet he turns 
over in his grave every day, Tea Cake and Janie gone hunting. Tea 
Cake and Janie gone fishing. Tea Cake and Janie gone to Oriando 
to the movies. Tea Cake and Janie gone to a dance. Tea Cake mak- 
ing flower beds in Janic's yard and seeding the garden for her. 
Chopping down that tree she never did like by the dining room 
window. All those signs of possession. Tea Cake in a borrowed car 
teaching Janie to drive. Tea Cake and Janie playing checkers; play- 
ing coon -can; playing Florida flip on the store porch all afternoon as 
if nobody else was tfiere. Day after day and week after week. 

"Pheoby," Sam Watson said one night as he got in the bed, *Ah 
blieve yo 1 buddy is all tied up with dat Tea Cake shonough. Didn't 
brieve it at first." 



Their Eyes Were Watching God 4r III 

"Aw she don't mean nothin' by it Ah think she's sort of 
stuck on dat undertaker up at Sanfcrd." 

"It's somebody 'cause she looks might good dese days* New 
dresses and her hair combed a different way nearly every day. You 
got to have something to comb hair over. When you see uh 
woman doin' so much rakin' in her head, she's combin* at some 
man or 'nother." 

"'Course she kin do as she please, but dat's uh good chance 
she got up at Sanford. De man's wife died and he got uh lovely 
place tuh take her to— already famished. Better'n her house Joe 
left hen* 

"You better sense her intuh things then 'cause Tea Cake can't 
do nothin' but help her spend whut she got. Ah reckon dat's 
whut he's after. TTirowin' away whut Joe Starts worked hard tuh 
git tuhgether." 

"Dat's de way it looks, Still and all, she's her own woman. 
She oughta know by now whut she wants tuh do." 

"De men wuz talkin' 'bout it in de grove tuhday and givin' 
her and Tea Cake both de devil. Dcy figgcr he's spendin' on her 
now in order tuh make her spend on him later." 

"Umph! Umph! Umph!" 

"Oh dey got it all Jiggered out. Maybe it ain't as bad as they 
say, but they talk it and make it sound real bad on her part." 

"Dat's jealousy and malice. Some uh dem very mens wants 
tuh do whut dey claim deys skeered Tea Cake is doinV 

"De Pastor claim Tea Cake don't 'low her tuh come tuh 
church only once in awhile 'cause he want dat change tuh buy gas 
wid. Just draggin' de woman away from church. But anyhow, 
she's yo' bosom friend, so you better go see 'bout her. Drop uh 
lil hint here and dere and if Tea Cake is tryin' tuh rob her she kin 
see and know. Ah laks de woman and Ah sho would hate tuh see 
her come up lak Mis' Tyler." 



112 Zora Neale Hurston 



u Aw rnah God, naw! Reckon Ah better step over dere tomor- 
row and have some chat wid Janie. She jus' ain't thinkin' whut she 
doin\ dat's all." 

The next morning Pheoby picked her way over to Janie's 
house like a hen to a neighbor's garden. Stopped and talked a lit- 
tie with everyone she met > turned aside momentarily to pause at 
a porch or two — going straight by walking crooked. So her firm 
intention looked like an accident and she didn't have to give her 
opinion to folks along the way. 

Janie acted glad to see her and after a while Pheoby broached 
her with, "Janie, everybody's talkin' 'bout how dat Tea Cake is 
draggin' you round tuh places you ain't used tuh. Baseball games 
and huntin' and fishin\ He don't know you'se useter uh more 
high time crowd than dat. You always did class off" 

"Jody classed mc off Ah didn't. Naw, Pheoby, Tea Cake ain't 
draggin' me off nowhere Ah don't want tuh go. Ah always did 
want tuh git round uh whole heap, but Jody wouldn't 'low me 
tuh. When Ah wasn't in de store he wanted me tuh jes sit wid 
folded hands and sit dere. And Ah'd sit dere wid de walls creepin' 
up on me and squeezin' ail de life outa me. Pheoby, dese edu- 
cated women got uh heap of things to sit down and consider. 
Somebody done toie 'em what to set down for Nobody ain't 
told poor me, so sittin' still worries me. Ah wants tuh utilize 
mahself all over," 

"But, Janie, Tea Cake, whilst he ain't no jaii-bird> he ain't got 
uh dime tuh cry. Ain't you skeered he's jes after yo' money — him 
bein' younger than you?" 

"He ain't never ast de first penny from me yet, and if he love 
property he ain't no different from all de rest of us. All dese ole 
men dat's settin' round me is after de same thing. They's three 
mo' widdcr women in town, how come dey don't break dey neck 
after dem? 'Cause dey ain't got nothin', dat's why." 



Their Byes Were Watching God 4r 113 



"Folks seen you out in colors and dey thinks you ain't payin' 
dc right amount uh respect tuh yo' dead husband." 

"Ah ain't grievin' so why do All hafta mourn? Tea Cake love 
me in blue, so Ah wean? it. Jody ain't never in his life picked out 
no color for me. Dc world picked out black and white for 
mourning Joe didn't. So Ah wasn't wearin' it for him. Ah was 
wearin' it for de rest of y'all." 

"But anyhow, watch yo'self, Janie, and don't be took advan- 
tage of. You know how dese young men is wid older women. 
Most of de time dey's after whut dey kin git, then dey's gone lak 
uh turkey through de corn." 

"Tea Cake don't talk dat way. He's aimin' tuh make hisself 
permanent wid me. We done made up our mind tuh marry." 

"Janie, you'se yo' own woman, and Ah hope you know whut 
you doin'. Ah sho hope you ain't lak uh possum — de older you 
gits, de less sense yuh got. Ah'd feel uh whole heap better 'bout 
yuh if you wuz marryin' dat man up dere in Sanford. He got some- 
thin' tuh put long side uh whut you got and dat make it more bet- 
ter. He's endurable." 

"Still and all Ah'd ruther be wid Tea Cake." 

"Well, if yo' mind is already made up, 'tain't nothin' nobody 
kin do. But you'se takin' uh awful chance." 

"No mo' than Ah took befo' and no mo' than anybody else 
takes when dey gits married. It always changes folks, and some- 
times it brings out dirt and meanness dat even de person didn't 
know they had in 'cm theyselves. You know dat. Maybe Tea Cake 
might turn out lak dat. Maybe not. Anyhow Ah'm ready and 
willin' tuh try 'im." 

"Well, when you aim tuh step off?" 

"Dat we don't know. De store is got tuh be sold and then 
we'se goin' off somewhere tuh git married." 
"How come you sellin' out de store?" 



114 *jp Zora Ncaie Hurstoii 



"'Cause Tea Cake ain't no Jody Starks, and if he tried tuh be, it 
would be till complete flommuck. But de minute Ah marries 'im 
everybody is gointuh be makin' comparisons. So us is goin' off 
somewhere and start all over in Tea Cake's way Dis ain't no business 
proposition, and no race after property and titles. Dis is uh love 
game. Ah done lived Grandma's way, now Ah means tuh live mine." 

"What you mean by dat, Janie?" 

"She was borned in slavery time when folks, dat is black folks, 
didn't sit down anytime dey felt lak it. So simn' on porches lak de 
white madam looked lak uh mighty fine thing tuh her. Dat's 
whut she wanted for me — don't keer whut it cost. Git up on uh 
high chair and sit dere. She didn't have time tuh think whut tuh 
do after you got up on de stool uh do nothin\ De object wuz tuh 
git dere. So Ah got up on dc high stool lak she told me, but 
Pheoby, Ah done nearly languished tuh death up dere. Ah felt 
like de world wuz cryin' extry and Ah ain't read de common 
news yet." 

"Maybe so, Janie. Still and ail Ah'd love tuh experience it for 
just one year. It look lak heben tuh me from where Ah'm at." 
"Ah reckon so." 

"But anyhow, Janie, you be keerfal 'bout dis scllin' out and 
goin' offwid strange men. Look whut happened tuh Ahnie Tyler. 
Took whut little she had and went off tuh Tampa wid dat boy dey 
call Who Flung. It's somethin' tuh think about" 

"It sho is. Still Ah ain't Mis' Tyler and Tea Cake ain't no 
Who Flung, and he ain't no stranger tuh me. We'sc just as good 
as married already. But Ah ain't puttin' it in de street. Ah'm 
tellin' you. " 

"Ah jus lak uh chicken. Chicken drink water, but he don't 
pee-pee." 

"Oh, Ah know you don't talk. We ain't shame faced. We jus' 
ain't ready tuh make no big kerflommuck as yet." 



Their Eyes Were Watching God 4B» 115 



"You doin' righfrnot tuh talk it, but Janie, you'se takin' uh 
mighty big chance." 

a, Tain*t so big uh chance as it seem iak, Phcoby. Ah'm older 
than Tea Cake, yes. But he done showed me where it's de 
thought dat makes de difference in ages. If people thinks de same 
they can make it ail right, So in the beginning new thoughts had 
tuh be thought and new words said. After Ah got used tuh dat, 
we gits 'long jus' fine. He done taught me de maiden language 
all over. Wait till you see de new blue satin Tea Cake done picked 
out for me tuh stand up wid him in. High heel slippers, necklace, 
earrings, everything he wants tuh see me in. Some of dese 
mornin's and it won't be long, you gointuh wake up callin' me 
and Ah'll be gone," 



13 




Jacksonville. Tea Cake*s letter had said Jacksonville. He had 
worked in the railroad shops up there before and his old boss had 
promised him a job come next pay day. No need for Janie to wait 
any longer. Wear the new blue dress because he meant to marry 
her right from the train. Hurry up and come because he was 
about to turn into pure sugar thinking about her. Come on, 
baby, papa Tea Cake never could be mad with you! 

Janic's train left too early in the day for the town to witness 
much, but the few who saw her leave bore plenty witness. They 
had to give it to her, she sho looked good, but she had no busi- 
ness to do it. It was hard to love a woman that always made you 
feel so wishful 

The train beat on itself and danced on the shiny steel rails 
mile after mile. Every now and then the engineer would play on 
his whistle for the people in the towns he passed by. And the train 
shuffled on to Jacksonville, and to a whole lot of things she 
wanted to see and to know. 

And there was Tea Cake in the big old station in a new blue 
suit and straw hat, hauling her off to a preacher's house first 
thing. Then right on to the room he had been sleeping in for two 
weeks all by himself waiting for her to come. And such another 



Their Byes Were Watching God ^B* 117 

hugging and kissing and carrying on you never saw, It made her 
so glad she was scared of herself They stayed at home and rested 
that night, but the next night they went to a show and after that 
they rode around on the trolley cars and sort of looked things 
over for themselves- Tea Cake was spending and doing out of his 
own pocket, so Janie never told him about the two hundred dot™ 
lars she had pinned inside her shirt next to her skin, Pheoby had 
insisted that she bring it along and keep it secret just to be on the 
safe side. She had ten dollars over her fare in her pocket book- Let 
Tea Cake think that was all she had- Things might not turn out 
like she thought- Every minute since she had stepped off the train 
she had been laughing at Phcoby's advice- She meant to tell Tea 
Cake the joke some time when she was sure she wouldn't hurt his 
feelings- So it came around that she had been married a week and 
sent Pheoby a card with a picture on it- 

That morning Tea Cake got up earlier than Janie did- She felt 
sleepy and told him to go get some fish to fry for breakfast- By the 
time he had gone and come back she would have finished her nap 
out- He told her he would and she turned over and went back to 
sleep- She woke up and Tea Cake still wasn*t there and the clock 
said it was getting late, so she got up and washed her face and 
hands- Perhaps he was down in the kitchen fixing around to let her 
sleep- Janie went down and the landlady made her drink some cof- 
fee with her because she said her husband was dead and it was bad 
to be having your morning coffee by yourself 

"Yo* husband gone tuh work dts morning Mis* Woods? Ah 
seen him go out uh good while uh go- Me and you kin be com - 
pany for one 'nother, can't us?" 

H Oh yes, indeed, Mis' Samuels- You puts me in de mind uh 
mah friend back in Eatonvillc- Yeah, youV nice and friendly jus* 
lakher." 

1 Tierefcre Janie drank her coffee and sankled on back to her 



11S ^Br Zora Ncak Humon 



room without asking her landlady anything. Tea Cake must be 
hunting all over the city for that fish. She kept that thought in 
front of her in order not to think too much. When she heard the 
twelve o'clock whistle she decided to get up and dress. That was 
when she found out her two hundred dollars was gone. There was 
the little cloth purse with the safety pin on the chair beneath her 
clothes and the money just wasn't nowhere in the room. She knew 
from the beginning that the money wasn't any place she knew of if 
it wasn't in that little pocket book pinned to her pink silk vest. But 
the exercise of searching the room kept her busy and that was 
good for her to keep moving, even though she wasn't doing any™ 
thing but turning around in her tracks. 

But, don't care how firm your determination is, you can't keep 
turning round in one place like a horse grinding sugar cane. So 
Janie took to sitting over the room. Sit and look. The room inside 
looked like the mouth of an alligator — gaped wide open to swal- 
low something down. Outside the window Jacksonville looked like 
it needed a fence around it to keep it from running out on ether's 
bosom. It was too big to be warm, let alone to need somebody like 
hen All day and night she worried time like a bone. 

Way late in the morning the thought of Annie Tyler and Who 
Flung came to pay her a visit. Annie Tyler who at fifty-two had 
been left a widow with a good home and insurance money. 

Mrs, Tyler with her dyed hair, newly straightened and her 
uncomfortable new false teeth* her leathery skin, blotchy with 
powder and her giggle. Her love affairs, affiurs with boys in their 
late teens or early twenties for all of whom she spent her money 
on suits of clothes* shoes, watches and things like that and how 
they all left her as soon as their wants were satisfied. Then when 
her ready cash was gone, had come Who Flung to denounce his 
predecessor as a scoundrel and took up around the house him- 
self. It was he who persuaded her to sell her house and come to 



Their Eyes Were Watching God <3r 119 



Tampa with him. The town had seen her limp off The under- 
sized high-heel slippers were punishing her tired feet that looked 
like bunions all over. Her body squeezed and crowded into a 
tight corset that shoved her middle up under her chin. But she 
had gone off laughing and sure. As sure as Janie had been. 

Then two weeks later the porter and conductor of the north 
bound local had helped her off the train at Maitland. Hair ail gray 
and black and bluish and reddish in streaks. All the capers that 
cheap dye could cut was showing in her hair. Those slippers bent 
and griped just like her work-worn feet. The corset gone and the 
shaking old woman hanging all over herself. Everything that you 
could sec was hanging. Her chin hung from her ears and rippled 
down her neck like drapes. Her hanging bosom and stomach and 
buttocks and legs that draped down over her ankles. She groaned 
but never giggled. 

She was broken and her pride was gone, so she told those 
who asked what had happened. Who Flung had taken her to a 
shabby room in a shabby house in a shabby street and promised 
to marry her next day They stayed in the room two whole days 
then she woke up to find Who Flung and her money gone. She 
got up to stir around and sec if she could find him, and found 
herself too worn out to do much. All she found out was that she 
was too old a vesSse! for new wine. The next day hunger had dri- 
ven her out to shift. She had stood on the streets and smiled and 
smiled, and then smiled and begged and then )ust begged. After 
a week of world- bruising a young man from home had come 
along and sSeen her. She couldn't tell him how it was. She just told 
him she got off the train and somebody had stolen her purse. 
Naturally, he had believed her and taken her home with him to 
give her time to rest up a day or two, then he had bought her a 
ticket for home. 

They put her to bed and sent (or her married daughter from 



120 ^Sr Zora Ncalc Hurston 



up around Ocala to come sec about her. The daughter came as 
soon as she could and took Annie Tyler away to die in peace. She 
had waited all her life for something, and it had killed her when it 
found her 

The thing made itself into pictures and hung around Janie's 
bedside all night long. Anyhow, she wasn't going back to 
Eatonville to be laughed at and pitied. She had ten dollars in her 
pocket and twelve hundred in the bank. But oh God, don't let 
Tea Cake be off somewhere hurt and Ah not know nothing 
about it. And God, please suh, don't let him love nobody else but 
me. Maybe Ah'm is uh fool, Lawd, lak dey say, but Lawd, Ah 
been so lonesome, and Ah been waitin', Jesus. Ah done waited 
uh long time. 

Janie dozed off to sleep but she woke up in time to see the 
sun sending up spies ahead of him to mark out the road through 
the dark. He peeped up over the door sill of the world and made 
a little foolishness with red. But pretty soon, he laid all that aside 
and went about his business dressed all in white. But it was always 
going to be dark to Janie if Tea Cake didn ? t soon come back. She 
got out of the bed but a chair couldn't hold her. She dwindled 
down on the floor with her head in a rocking chair. 

After a while there was somebody playing a guitar outside her 
door Played right smart while. It sounded lovely too. But it was 
sad to hear it feeling blue like Janie was. Then whoever it was 
started to singing "Ring de bells of mercy. Call de sinner man 
home." Her heart all but smothered her. 

"Tea Cake, is dat you?" 

"You know so well it's me, Janie. How come you don^t open 
de doorr 

But he never waited. He walked on in with a guitar and a 
grin. Guitar hanging round his neck with a red silk cord and a 
grin hanging from his ears. 



Their Eyes Were Watching God 4r 121 

"Don't need tuh ast mc where Ah been all dis time, 'cause 
it's mah all day job tuh tell yuh." 
"Tea Cake, Ah— * 

"Good Lawd, Janie, whut you doin' scttin' on de floor? " 

He took her head in his hands and eased himself into the 
chair. She still didn't say anything. He sat stroking her head and 
looking down into her face. 

"Ah see whut it is, You doubted me 'bout de money Thought 
Ah had done took it and gone. Ah don't blame yuh but it wasn't 
lak you think. De girl baby ain't born and her mama is dead, dat 
can git me tuh spend our money on her. Ah told yo' before dat you 
got de keys tuh de kingdom. You can depend on dat." 

"Still and all you went off and left me all day and all night." 

"Twasn't 'cause Ah wanted tuh stay off lak dat, and it sho 
Lawd, wuzn't no woman. If you didn't have de power tuh hold 
me and hold me tight, Ah wouldn't be callin' yuh Mis' Woods. 
Ah met plenty women before Ah knowed you tuh talk tuh. 
You'se de oniicst woman in de world Ah ever even mentioned 
gitting married tuh. You bein' older don't make no difference. 
Don't never consider dat no mo'. If Ah ever gits tuh messin' 
round another woman it won't be on account of her age. It'll be 
because she got me in de same way you got me — so Ah can't help 
mahself." 

He sat down on the floor beside her and kissed and playfully 
turned up the corner of her mouth until she smiled. 

"Looka here, folks," he announced to an imaginary audi- 
ence, "Sister Woods is 'bout tuh quit her husband!" 

Janie laughed at that and let herself lean on him. Then she 
announced to the same audience, "Mis' Woods got herself uh new 
lil boy rooster, but he been off somewhere and won't tell her." 

"First thing, though, us got tuh eat together, Janie. Then we 
can talk." 



122 4&r Zora Ncalc Hurston 



"One thing, Ah won't send you out after no fish/' 

He pinched her in the side and ignored what she said. 

"Tain't no need of neither one of us workin' dis mornin 1 . 
Call Mis' Samuels and let her fix whatever you want." 

"Tea Cake, if you don't hurry up and tell me, Ah'll take and 
beat yo' head flat as uh dime. 11 

Tea Cake stuck out till he had some breakfast, then he talked 
and acted out the story. 

He spied the money while he was tying his tie. He took it up 
and looked at it out of curiosity and put it in his pocket to count 
it while he was out to find some fish to fry. When he found out 
how much it was, he was excited and felt like letting folks know 
who he was. Before he found the fish market he met a fellow he 
used to work with at the round house. One word brought on 
another one and pretty soon he made up his mind to spend some 
of it. He never had had his hand on so much money before in his 
life, so he made up his mind to see how it felt to be a millionaire. 
They went on out to Callahan round the railroad shops and he 
decided to give a big chicken and macaroni supper that night, 
free to all. 

He bought up the stuff and they found somebody to pick the 
guitar so they could all dance some. So they sent the message all 
around for people to come. And come they did. A big table 
loaded down with fried chicken and biscuits and a wash-tub fall 
of macaroni with plenty cheese in it. When the fellow began to 
pick the box the people begin to come from east, west, north and 
Australia. And he stood in the door and paid ail the ugly women 
two dollars not to come in. One big meriny colored woman was 
so ugly till it was worth five dollars for her not to come in, so he 
gave it to her. 

They had a big time till one man come in who thought he 
was bad. He tried to pull and haul over all the chickens and pick 



Their Eyes Were Watching God 123 



out the livers and gizzards to cat. Nobody eise couldn't pacify 
him so they called Tea Cake to come see if he could stop him. So 
Tea Cake walked up and asked him, "Say, whut's de matter wid 
you, nohow>* 

"Ah don't want nobody handin' me nothin\ Specially don't 
issue me out no rations. Ah always chooses mah rations. 59 He 
kept right on plowing through the pile uh chicken. So Tea Cake 
got mad. 

"You got mo 1 nerve than uh brass monkey. Tell me, what 
post office did you ever pee \x\> Ah craves tuh know. " 

"Whut you mean by dat now?" the fellow asked. 

"Ah means dis — it takes )us' as much nerve tuh cut caper lak 
dat in uh United States Government Post Office as it do tuh 
comes pullin* and haulin' over any chicken Ah pay for Hit de 
ground. Damned if Ah ain't gointuh try you dis night." 

So they all went outside to see if Tea Cake could handle the 
boogerboo. Tea Cake knocked out two of his teeth, so that man 
went on off from there, Then two men tried to pick a fight with 
one anodier, so Tea Cake said they had to kiss and make up. They 
didn't want to do it. They'd rather go to jail, but everybody else 
liked the idea, so they made 'em do it. Afterwards, both of them 
spit and gagged and wiped their mouths with the back of their 
hands, One went outside and chewed a little grass like a sick dog, 
he said to keep it from killing him. 

Then everybody began to holier at the music because the 
man couldn't play but three pieces. So Tea Cake took the guitar 
and played himself. He was glad of the chance because he hadn't 
had his hand on a box since he put his in the pawn shop to get 
some money to hire a car for Janie soon after he met her. He 
missed his music. So that put him in the notion he ought to have 
one. He bought the guitar on the spot and paid fifteen dollars 
cash. It was really worth sixty-five any day. 



124 4r Zora Neak Hurston 



Just before day the party wore out. So Tea Cake hurried on 
back to his new wife. He had done found out how rich people feel 
and he had a fine guitar and twelve dollars left in his pocket and all 
he needed now was a great big old hug and kiss from Janic. 

"You musta thought yo* wife was powerful ugly. Dem ugly 
women dat you paid two dollars not to come in, could git tuh de 
door. You never even Mowed me tuh git dat close." She pouted. 

"Janie, Ah would have give Jacksonville wid Tampa for a 
jump- back for you to be dere wid me. Ah started to come git yuh 
two three times. " 

"Well, how come yuh didn't come git me?" 

"Janie, would you have come if Ah did?" 

"Sho Ah would. Ah late fun just as good as you do." 

"Janie, Ah wanted tuh, mighty much, but Ah was skeered. 
Too skeered Ah might lose yuh." 

"Why?* 

"Dem wuzn't no high muckty mucks. Dem wuz railroad 
hands and dcy womenfolks. You ain't usetuh folks lak dat and All 
wuz skeered you might git all mad and quit me for takin' you 
'mongsi 'em. But Ah wanted yuh wid me jus'' de same. Befo* us 
got married Ah made up mah mind not tuh let you see no com~ 
monness in me. When Ah git mad habits on, Ah'd go off and 
keep it out yo' sight. 'Tain't mah notion tuh drag you down wid 
me." 

"Looka heah, Tea Cake, if you ever go off from me and have 
a good time lak dat and then come back heah tellhV me how nice 
Ah is, Ah specks tuh kill yuh dead. You heah mc?" 

"So you aims tuh partake wid everything, hunh?" 

"Yeah, Tea Cake, don't keer what it is." 

"Dat*s all Ah wants tuh know. From now on you'se mah wife 
and mah woman and everything else in de world Ah needs." 

"Ah hope so." 



Their Eyes Were Watching God 4* 125 

"And honey, don't you worry >bout yo' lil ole two hundred 
dollars. It's big pay day dis comin' Saturday at de railroad yards, 
Ah'm gointuh take dis twelve dollars in mah pocket and win it all 
back and mo'.* 

*How>" 

"Honey, since you loose me and gimme privilege tuh tell yuh 
all about mahself> Ah'U tell yuh. You done married one uh de best 
gamblers God ever made. Cards or dice either one. Ah can take 
uh shoe string and win uh tan-yard. Wish yuh could see me 
rollin'. But dis time it's gointuh be nothin' but tough men's 
talkin* all kinds uh talk so it ain't no place for you tuh be, but 
'twcm't be long befo 1 you see me." 

All the rest of the week Tea Cake was busy practising up on 
his dice. He would flip them on the bare floor, on the rug and on 
the bed. He'd squat and throw, sit in a chair and throw and stand 
and throw. It was very exciting to Janie who had never touched 
dice in her life. Then he'd take his deck of cards and shuffle and 
cut, shuffle and cut and deal out then examine each hand care- 
hilly, and do it again. So Saturday came. He went out and bought 
a new switch- blade knife and two decks of star back playing cards 
that morning and left Janie around noon. 

"They'll start to paying off, pretty soon now. Ah wants tuh 
git in de game whilst de big money is in it. Ah ain't fuh no spud- 
din' tuhday. Ah'U come home wid de money or Ah'll come back 
on nh stretcher." He cut nine hairs out of the mole of her head 
for luck and went off happy 

Janie waited till midnight without worrying, but after that she 
began to be afraid. So she got up and sat around scared and miser- 
able. Thinking and fearing ail sorts of dangers. Wondering at her- 
self as she had many times this week that she was not shocked at 
Tea Cake's gambling. It was part of him, so it was all right. She 
rather found herself angry at imaginary people who might try to 



126 *Sm Zora Neale Hurston 



criticize. Let the old hypocrites learn to mind their own business, 
and leave other folks alone. Tea Cake wasn't doing a bit more 
harm trying to win hisself a little money than they was always 
doing with their lying tongues. Tea Cake had more good nature 
under his toe-nails than they had in their so-called Christian hearts. 
She better not hear none of them old backbiters talking about her 
husband! Please, Jesus, don't let them nasty niggers hurt her boy. 
If they do, Master Jesus, grant her a good gun and a chance to 
shoot 'em. Tea Cake had a knife it was true, but that was only to 
protect hisself. God knows, Tea Cake wouldn't harm a fly. 

Daylight was creeping around the cracks of the world when 
Janie heard a feeble rap on the door. She sprung to the door and 
flung it wide. Tea Cake was out there looking like he was asleep 
standing up. In some strange way it was frightening. Janie caught 
his arm to arouse him and he stumbled into the room and fell. 

"Tea Cake! You chile! What's de matter, honey?" 

"Dey cut me, dat's all. Don't cry Git me out dis coat quick 
asyuh can." 

He told her he wasn't cut but twice but she had to have him 
naked so she could look him all over and fix him up to a certain 
extent. He told her not to call a doctor unless he got much 
worse. It was mostly loss of blood anyhow. 

"Ah won the money jus' lak ah told yxth . Round midnight Ah 
had yo' two hundred dollars and wuz ready tuh quit even though 
it wuz uh heap mo' money in de game. But dey wanted uh 
chance tuh win it back so Ah set back down tuh play some mo'. 
Ah knowed ole Double-Ugly wuz 'bout broke and wanted tuh 
fight 'bout it, so Ah set down tuh give 'im his chance tuh git back 
his money and then to give 'im uh quick trip tuh hell if he tried 
tuh pull dat razor Ah glimpsed in his pocket. Honey, no up-to- 
date man don't fool wid no razor. De man wid his switch-blade 
will be done cut yuh tuh death while you foolin' wid uh razor. 



Their Byes Were Watching God 127 

But Double-Ugly brags he's too fast wid it tub git hurt, but Ah 
knowed better. 

"So round four o'clock Ah had done cleaned 'em out com- 
plete — all except two men dat got up and left while dey had 
money for groceries, and one man dat wuz lucky Then Ah rose 
tuh bid 'cm good bye agin. None of 'em didn't lak it, but dey all 
realized it wuz fair Ah had done give 'em a fair chance. All but 
Double-Ugly He claimed Ah switched de dice. Ah shoved de 
money down deep in mah pocket and picked up mah hat and 
coat wid mah left hand and kept mah right hand on mah knife. 
Ah didn't keer what he said long as he didn*t try tuh do nothinV 
Ah got mah hat on and one arm in mah coat as Ah got to de door. 
Right dere he jumped at me as Ah turned to see de doorstep out- 
side and cut me twice in de back. 

"Baby, Ah run mah other arm in mah coat-sleeve and 
grabbed dat nigger by his necktie befo' he could bat his eye and 
then Ah wuz all over 'im jus' lak gravy over rice. He lost his razor 
tryin' tuh git loose from me. He wuz hollerin' for me tuh turn 
him loose, but baby, Ah turnt him every way hut loose, Ah left 
him on the doorstep and got here to yuh de quickest way Ah 
could. Ah know Ah ain't cut too deep Vause he was too skcered 
tuh run up on me close enough. Sorta pull de flesh together with 
stickin' plaster. Ah 'II be all right in uh day or so." 

Janie was painting on iodine and crying. 

"You ain't de one to be cryin 1 , Janie. It*s his ole lady oughta 
do dat. You done gimme luck. Look in mail left hand pants 
pocket and see whut yo' daddy brought yuh. When Ah tell yuh 
Ah*m gointuh bring it, Ah don't lie. w 

They counted it together— three hundred and twenty-two 
dollars. It was almost like Tea Cake had held up the Paymaster. He 
made her take the two hundred and put it back in the secret place. 
Then Janie told him about the other money she had in the bank. 



128 <Qp Zora NeaJe Humon 



"Put dat two hundred back wid de rest, Jank, Mah dice. Ah 
no need no assistance tuh help me feed mah woman. From now 
on, you gointuh eat whuievcr mah money can buy yuh and wear 
de same. When Ah ain't got nothin* you don ? t git nothinV' 

*Dafs all right wid me" 

He was getting drowsy, but he pinched her leg playfully 
because he was glad she took things the way he wanted her to, 
"Listen, mama, soon as Ah git over dis HI cuttin ? scrape, we goin- 
tuh do somethin* crazy.** 

*Whut*s dat>" 

"We goin* on de muck," 

u Whut*s de muck, and where is it at?" 

"Oh down in de Everglades round Glewiston and Belle 
Glade where dey raise all dat cane and string-beans and 
tomatuhs. Folks don ? t do nothin* down dere but make money 
and fun and foolishness. We must go dere." 

He drifted off into sleep and Janie looked down on him and felt 
a self-crushing love. So her soul crawled out from its hiding place. 



14 



lb Janie y s strange eye$> everything in the Everglades was big and 
new Big Lake Okechobce, big beans, big cane, big weeds, big 
everything. Weeds that did well to grow waist high up the state 
were eight and often ten feet tall down there. Ground so rich that 
everything went wild. Volunteer cane just taking the place. Dirt 
roads so rich and black that a half mile of it would have fertilized 
a Kansas wheat field. Wild cane on either side of the road hiding 
the rest of the world. People wild too, 

"Season don't open up till last of September, but we had tuh git 
heah ahead uh time tuh git us uh room,* Tea Cake explained. "Two 
weeks from now, it'll be so many folks heah dcy won't be lookin' 
fuh rooms, dey'll be jus' looking fiih somewhere tuh sleep. Now we 
got uh chance tuh git uh room at de hotel, where dey got uh bath 
tub. Yuh can't live on de muck 'thout yuh take uh bath every day. 
Do dat muck'll itch yuh lak ants. 'Tain't but one place round heah 
wid uh bath tub. Tain't nowhere near enough rooms. " 

"Whut we gointuh do round heah? 1 * 

"All day Ah'm pickin' beans. Ail night Ah'm pickin' mah 
box and rollin' dice. Between de beans and de dice Ah can't 
lose. Ah'm gone right now tuh pick me uh job uh work wid de 
best man on de muck. Before de rest of 'em gits heah. You can 



130 Zora Neaic Hurston 



always git jobs round heah in de season, hut not wid de right 
folks." 

u When do de job open up, Tea Cake? Everybody round here 
look lak dey waitin' too." 

"Dat's right, De big men haves uh certain time tuh open de 
season jus' lak in everything else. Mah boss-man didn't get suffi- 
cient seed. He's out huntin' up uh few mo' bushels. Den we'se 
gointuh plantin'." 

"Bushels?" 

"Yeah, bushels. Dis ain't no game fuh pennies. Po' man ain't 
got no business at de show." 

The very next day he burst into the room in high excitement. 
"Boss done bought out another man and want me down on de 
lake. He got houses fuh de first ones dat git dere. Less go!" 

They rattled nine miles in a borrowed car to the quarters that 
squatted so close that only the dyke separated them from great, 
sprawling Okechobee. Janie fussed around the shack making a 
home while Tea Cake planted beans. After hours they fished. 
Every now and then they'd run across a party of Indians in their 
long, narrow dug-outs calmly winning their living in the trackless 
ways of the 'Glades. Finally the beans were in. Nothing much to 
do but wait to pick them. Tea Cake picked his box a great deal for 
Janie, but he still didn't have enough to do. No need of gambling 
yet. The people who were pouring in were broke. They didn't 
come bringing money, they were coming to make some, 

"Tell yuh whut, Janie, less buy us some shootin' tools and go 
huntin ' round heah." 

*Dat would be fine, Tea Cake, exceptin' you know Ah can't 
shoot. But Ah'd love tuh go wid you." 

"Oh, you needs tuh learn how 'Tain't no need uh you not 
knowin' how tuh handle shootin' tools. Even if you didn't never 
find no game, it's always some trashy rascal dat needs uh good 



Their Byes Were Watching God 131 

killin\" he laughed. "Less go intuh Palm Reach and spend some 
of our money," 

Every day they were practising. Tea Cake made her shoot at 
little things just to give her good aim. Pistol and shot gun and 
rifle. It got so the others stood around and watched them. Some 
of the men would beg for a shot at the target themselves. It was 
the most exciting thing on the muck. Better than the jook and 
the pool-room unless some special band was playing for a dance. 
And the thing that got everybody was the way Janic caught on. 
She got to the place she could shoot a hawk out of a pine tree and 
not tear him up. Shoot his head off. She got to be a better shot 
than Tea Cake. TheyM go out any late afternoon and come back 
loaded down with game. One night they got a boat and went out 
hunting alligators. Shining their phosphorescent eyes and shoot- 
ing them in the dark. They could sell the hides and teeth in Palm 
Beach besides having fun together till work got pressing. 

Day by day now, the hordes of workers poured in. Some 
came limping in with their shoes and sore feet from walking. It's 
hard trying to follow your shoe instead of your shoe following 
you. They came in wagons from way up in Georgia and they 
came in truck loads from east, west, north and south. Permanent 
transients with no attachments and tired looking men with their 
families and dogs in flivvers. All night, all day, hurrying in to pick 
beans. Skillets, beds, patched up spare inner tubes all hanging 
and dangling from the ancient cars on the outside and hopeful 
humanity, herded and hovered on the inside, chugging on to the 
muck. People ugly from ignorance and broken from being poor. 

All night now the jooks clanged and cSamored. Pianos living 
three lifetimes in one. Blues made and used right on the spot. 
Dancing, fighting, singing, crying, laughing, winning and losing 
love every hour. Work all day for money, fight all night for love. The 
rich black earth clinging to bodies and biting the skin like ants. 



132 4* Zora Neak Hurscon 



Finally no more sleeping places. Men made big fires and fifty 
or sixty men slept around each fire. But they had to pay the man 
whose land they slept on. He ran the fire just like his boarding 
place — for pay. But nobody cared. They made good money, 
even to the children. So they spent good money. Next month 
and next year were other times. No need to mix them up with 
the present 

Tea Cake's house was a magnet, the unauthorized center of 
the "job.'" The way he would sit in the doorway and play his gui- 
tar made people stop and listen and maybe disappoint the jook 
for that night. He was always laughing and £1x11 of ftm too. He 
kept everybody laughing in the bean field. 

Janie stayed home and boiled big pots of biackcyed peas and 
rice. Sometimes baked big pans of navy beans with plenty of 
sugar and hunks of bacon laying on top. That was something Tea 
Cake loved so no matter if Janie had fixed beans two or three 
times during the week, they had baked beans again on Sunday. 
She always had some kind of dessert too, as Tea Cake said it give 
a man something to taper off on. Sometimes she'd straighten out 
the two-room house and take the rifle and have fried rabbit for 
supper when Tea Cake got home. She didn't leave him itching 
and scratching in his work clothes, either. The kettle of hot water 
was already waiting when he got in. 

Then Tea Cake took to popping in at the kitchen door at odd 
hours. Between breakfast and dinner, sometimes. Then often 
around two o'clock he'd come home and tease and wresde with 
her for a half hour and slip on back to work. So one day she asked 
him about it. 

"Tea Cake, whut you doin' back in de quarters when every- 
body else is still working" 

"Come tuh see 'bout you. De boogerman liable tuh tote yuh 
off whilst Ah'm gone." 



Their Eyes Were Watching God *fr 133 

"Tain't no boogcrman got me tuh study 'bout. Maybe you 
think Ali ain't treatin' yuh right and you watchin' me." 

"Naw 7 naw, Janie. Ah know better'n dat. But since you got 
dat in yo* head, Ah '11 have tuh tell yuh de real truth, so yuh can 
know. Janie, Ah gits lonesome out dere all day 'thout yuh. After 
dis, you betta come git uh job uh work out dere lak de rest uh de 
women — so Ah won't be losin' time comin' home." 

"Tea Cake, you'se uh mess! Can't do *thout me dat ill rime." 

"Tain't no iil time. It's near 'bout all day." 

So the very next morning Janie got ready to pick beans along 
with Tea Cake. There was a suppressed murmur when she picked 
up a basket and went to work. She was already getting to be a 
special case on the muck. It was generally assumed that she 
thought herseif too good to work like the rest of the women and 
that Tea Cake "pomped her up tuh dat." But ail day long the 
romping and playing they carried on behind the boss's back 
made her popular right away. It got die whole field to playing off 
and on. Then Tea Cake would help get supper afterwards. 

"You don't think Ah'm tryin' tuh git outa takin' keer uh yuh, 
do yuh, Janie, 'cause Ah ast yuh tuh work long side uh me>" Tea 
Cake asked her at the end of her first week in the field. 

"Ah naw, honey. Ah laks it. It's mo' nicer than settin' round dese 
quarters all day. Clerkin' in dat store wuz hard, but heah, we ain't got 
nothin' tuh do but do our work and come home and love." 

The house was full of people every night. That is, all around 
the doorstep was full. Some were there to hear Tea Cake pick the 
box; some came to talk and tell stories, but most of them came to 
get into whatever game was going on or might go on. Sometimes 
Tea Cake lost heavily, for there were several good gamblers on 
the lake. Sometimes he won and made Janie proud of his skill. 
But outside of die two jooks, everything on that job went on 
around those two. 



134 J&r Zora Neai.e Hurston 



Sometimes Janic would think of the old days in the big white 
house and the store and laugh to herself What if Eatonvillc could 
see her now in her blue denim overalls and heavy shoes? The 
crowd of people around her and a dice game on her floor! She was 
sorry for her friends back there and scornful of the others. The 
men held big arguments here like they used to do on the store 
porch. Only here, she could listen and laugh and even talk some 
herself if she wanted to. She got so she could tell big stories herself 
from listening to the rest. Because she loved to hear it, and the 
men loved to hear themselves, they would "woof" and "booger- 
boo" around the games to the limit. No matter how rough it was, 
people seldom got mad, because everything was done for a laugh. 
Everybody loved to hear Ed Dockery, Bootyny, and Sop-de-Bot- 
torn in a skin game. Ed Dockery was dealing one night and he 
looked over at Sop-de-Bottom's card and he could tell Sop 
thought he was going to win. He hollered, "Ah'll break up set- 
tin' uh eggs." Sop looked and said, "Root de peg. " Bootyny asked, 
"What are you goin' nib da> Do do!" Everybody was watching 
that next card fall. Ed got ready to turn. "Ah'm gointuh sweep out 
hell and burn up de broom." He slammed down another dollar. 
"Don't oversport yourself, Ed," Bootyny challenged. "You gittin* 
too yaller. " Ed caught hold of the corner of the card. Sop dropped 
a dollar. "Ah'm gointuh shoot in de hearse, don't keer how sad de 
funeral be. * Ed said, "You see how this man is teasin 5 hell?" Tea 
Cake nudged Sop not to bet. "You gointuh git caught in uh bul let 
storm if you don't watch out." Sop said, "Aw 'tain 5 1 nothin' tuh 
dat bear but his curly hair. Ah can look through muddy water and 
see dryland." Ed turned off the card and hollered, "Zachariah, Ah 
says come down out dat sycamore tree. You can't do no business." 
Nobody fell on that card. Everybody was scared of the next one. 
Ed looked around and saw Gabe standing behind his chair and 
hollaed, "Move, from over me, Gabe! You too black. You draw 



Their Eyes Were Watching God 4ft* 13S 



heat! Sop, you wanta pick up dat bet whilst you got uh chance?" 
"Naw ? man, Ah wish Ah had uh thousand4eg tuh put on it** "So 
yuh won't lisscn, huh? Dumb niggers and free schools. Alr m gohv 
tuh take and teach yuh> Ah'li main -line but Ah won't side-track." 
Ed flipped the next card and Sop fell and lost- Everybody hollered 
and laughed. Ed laughed and said, "Git off de muck! You ain't 
nothin'. Dat's all! 'Hot boilin' water won't help yuh none.* Ed 
kept on laughing because he had been so scared before. "Sop, 
Bootyny, all y'all dat leirune win yo* money: Ah J m sending it 
straight off to Sears and Roebuck and buy me sonic clothes, and 
when Aii turn out Christinas day, it would take a doctor to tell me 
how near Ah is dressed tuh deaths 



15 




Janie learned what it felt like to be jealous. A UttU chunky girl took 
to picking a play out of Tea Cake in the fields and in the quarters. 
If he said anything at ali> sheM take the opposite side and hit him 
or shove him and run away to make him chase her Janie knew 
what she was up to— luring him away from the crowd. It kept up 
for two or three weeks with Nunkie getting bolder all the time. 
SheM hit Tea Cake playfully and the minute he so much as tapped 
her with his finger she'd fall against him or fell on the ground and 
have to be picked up. SheM be almost helpless. It took a good deal 
of handling to set her on her feet again. And another thing, Tea 
Cake didn^t seem to be able to fend her off as promptly as Janie 
thought he ought to. She began to be snappish a little. A little seed 
of fear was growing into a tree. Maybe some day Tea Cake would 
weaken. Maybe he had already given secret encouragement and 
this was Nunkie's way of bragging about it. Other people began to 
notice too, and that put Janie more on a wonder. 

One day they were working near where the beans ended and 
the sugar cane began. Janie had marched off a little from Tea Cake's 
side with another woman for a chat. When she glanced around Tea 
Cake was gone. Nunkie too. She knew because she looked. 

"Where's Tea Cake?" she asked Sop-de -Bottom. 



Their Eyes Were Watching God <4BP 137 

He waved his hand towards the cane field and hurried away, 
Janie never thought at all. She just acted on feelings. She rushed 
into the cane and about the fifth row down she found Tea Cake 
and Nunkie struggling. She was on them before either knew, 

"Whut's de matter heah?" Janie asked in a cold rage. They 
sprang apart, 

"Nothing Tea Cake told her, standing shame-faced, 
"Well, whut you doin' in heah? How come you ain't out dere 
wid de rest?" 

"She grabbed mah workin' tickets outa mah shirt pocket and 
Ah run tub git 'em back," Tea Cake explained, showing the tick- 
ets, considerably mauled about in the struggle, 

Janie made a move to seize Nunkie but the girl fled. So she 
took out beiiind her over the humped-up cane rows, But Nunkie 
did not mean to be caught. So Janie went on home. The sight of 
the fields and the other happy people was too much for her that 
day. She walked slowly and thoughtfully to the quarters. It wasn't 
long before Tea Cake found her there and tried to talk. She cut 
him short with a blow and they fought from one room to the 
other, Janie trying to beat him, and Tea Cake kept holding her 
wrists and wherever he could to keep her from going too far, 

"Ah blievc you been messin 1 round her!" she panted fiiriously, 

"No sich uh thing! n Tea Cake retorted, 

"Ahb'lievcyuhdid," 

"Don't keer how big uh lie get told, somebody kin b'licve it!" 

They fought on, "You done hurt mah heart, now you come 
wid uh lie tuh bruise mah ears! Turn go mah hands! 7 * Janie 
seethed. But lea Cake never let go. They wresded on until they 
were doped with their own fumes and emanations; till their 
clothes had been torn away; till he hurled her to the floor and 
held her there melting her resistance with the heat of his body, 
doing things with their bodies to express the inexpressible; kissed 



138 Zora Ncalc Hurston 



her until she arched her body to meet htm and they fell asieep in 
sweet exhaustion. 

The next morning Janic asked like a woman, "You still love 
ole Nunkie?" 

u Naw, never did, and you know it too. Ah didn't want her." 

"Yeah, you did." She didn't say this because she believed it. 
She wanted to hear his denial. She had to crow over the fallen 
NunJde. 

"Whut would Ah do wid dat lil chunk of a woman wid you 
around? She ain't good for nothm' exceptin* tub set up in uh cor- 
ner by de kitchen stove and break wood over her head. You'se 
something tuh make uh man forgtt tuh git old and forgit tuh die * 



16 




The season closed and people went away like they bad come — in 
droves. Tea Cake and Janie decided to stay since they wanted to 
make another season on the muck. There was nothing to do, 
after they had gathered several bushels of dried beans to save over 
and sell to the planters in the fall. So Janie began to look around 
and see people and things she hadn't noticed during the season. 

For .instance during the summer when she heard the subtle 
but compelling rhythms of the Bahaman drummers, she'd walk 
over and watch the dances. She did not laugh the "Saws" to 
scorn as she had heard the people doing in the season. She got to 
like it a lot and she and Tea Cake were on hand every night till the 
others teased them about it. 

Janie came to know Mrs. Turner now. She had seen her sev- 
eral times during the season > but neither ever spoke. Now they 
got to be visiting friends. 

Mrs. Turner was a milky sort of a woman that belonged to 
child-bed. Her shoulders rounded a little, and she must have 
been conscious of her pelvis because she kept it stuck out in front 
of her so she could always see it. Tea Cake made a lot of fim about 
Mrs. Turner's shape behind her back. He claimed that she had 
been shaped up by a cow kicking her from behind. She was an 



140 JBr Zora Ncale Hurst on 



ironing board with things throwed at it. Then that same cow 
took and stepped in her mouth when she was a baby and left it 
wide and flat with her chin and nose almost meeting. 

But Mrs. Turner's shape and features were entirely approved by 
Mrs. Turner. Her nose was slightly pointed and she was proud. Her 
thin lips were an ever delight to her eyes. Even her buttocks in bas- 
relief were a source of pride. To her way of thinking all these things 
set her aside from Negroes. That was why she sought out Janic to 
ftiend with. Janie's coflfee-and-cream complexion and her luxurious 
hair made Mrs. Turner forgive her for wearing overalls like the other 
women who worked in the fields. She didn't forgive her for marry- 
ing a man as dark as Tea Cake, but she felt that she could remedy 
that. That was what her brother was bom for. She seldom stayed 
long when she found Tea Cake at home, but when she happened to 
drop in and catch Janie alone, she'd spend hours chatting away. Her 
disfavorite subject was Negroes. 

"Mis' Woods, Ah have often said to mah husband, Ah don't 
see how uh lady like Mis' Woods can stand all them common nig- 
gers round her place all de time." 

"They don't worry me atall, Mis' Turner. Fact about de 
thing is, they tickles me wid they talk. " 

"You got mo 7 nerve than me. When somebody talked mah 
husband intuh comin' down hcah tuh open up uh eatin' place Ah 
never dreamt so many different kins uh black folks could colleck 
in one place. Did Ah never wouida come. Ah ain't meter 'ssoci- 
atin' wid black folks. Mah son claims dey draws lightnin'." They 
laughed a little and after many of these talks Mrs. Turner said, 
To' husband musta had plenty money when y'all got married." 

"Whut make you think dat, Mis' Turner?" 

"Tuh git hold of uh woman lak you. You got mo' nerve than 
me. Ah jus' couldn't see mahself married to no black man. It's 
too many black folks already. We oughta lighten up de race." 



Their Eyes Were Waiching God <4p 141 

"Naw, mail husband didn't had nothin' but hisself. He's easy 
tuh love if you mess round 'im. Ah loves 'im." 

"Why you, Mis' Woods! Ah don't b'lkve it. You'se jus' sorter 
hypnotized, dat's all." 

w Naw, it's real. Ah couldn't stand it if he witz tuh quit me. 
Don't know whut Ah'd do. He kin take most any li! thing and 
make summertime out of it when rimes is dull. Then wc lives offa 
dat happiness he made till some mo' happiness come along." 

"You'se different from me. Ah can't stand black niggers. Ah 
don't blame de white folks from hatin' 'em 'cause Ah can't stand 
'em mahself 'Nother thing, Ah hates tuh see folks lak me and 
you mixed up wid 'em. Us oughta class off." 

"Us can't do it. We'se uh mingled people and all of us got 
black kinfolks as well as yaller kinfolks. How come you so against 
black?" 

"And dey makes me tired. Always langhin'! Dey laughs too 
much and dey laughs too loud. Always singin' ol' nigger songs! 
Always cnttin' de monkey for white folks. If it wuzn't for so many 
black folks it wouldn't be no race problem . De white folks would 
take us in wid dem. De black ones is holdin' us back." 

"You reckon? bourse Ah ain't never thought about it too 
much. But Ah don't figger dey even gointuh want us for comp'ny. 
We'se too poor." 

"'Tain't de poorness, it's de color and de features. Who want 
any ill ole black baby layin' up in de baby buggy lookin' lak uh fly in 
buttermilk? Who wants to be mixed up wid uh rusty black man, and 
uh black woman goin' down de street in all dem loud colors, and 
whoopin' and hollerin' and laughin' over notion'? Ah don't know. 
Don't bring mc no nigger doctor tuh hang over mall sick-bed. Ah 
done had six chillun — wuzn't lucky enough tuh raise but dat one— 
and ain't never had uh nigger tuh even feel mah pulse. White doc- 
tors always gits mah money. Ah don't go in no nigger store tuh buy 



142 jOp Zora Ncale Hurston 



notihin* neither Colored folks don't know nothin' *bout no busi- 
ness. Deliver mc! 71 

Mrs. Turner was almost screaming in fanatical earnestness by 
now. Janie was dumb and bewildered before and she clucked sym- 
pathetically and wished she knew what to say. It was so evident that 
Mrs. Turner took black folk as a personal affront to herself. 

"Look at me! Ah ain't got no flat nose and liver lips. Ah'm uh 
featured woman. Ah got white folks' features in mah fece. Still 
and all Ah got tuh be lumped in wid all de rest. It ain't iair. Even 
if dey don't take us in wid de whites, dey oughta make us uh class 
tuh ourselves/ 

"It don't worry me atall, but Ah reckon Ah ain't got no real 
headfiir thinking 

"You oughta meet mah brorber. He's real smart. Got dead 
straight hair. Dey made him uh delegate tuh de Sunday School 
Convention and he read uh paper on Booker T. Washington and 
tore him tuh pieces!" 

"Booker T.? He wuz a great big man, wasn't he?" 

"'Sposed tuh be. All he ever done was cut de monkey for 
white folks. So dey pomped him up. But you know whut de o!e 
folks say Me higher de monkey climbs de mo' he show his 
behind* so dat's de way it wuz wid Booker T. Mah brother hit *im 
every time dey give 'im chance tuh speak." 

**Ah was raised on de notion dat he wuz uh great big man," 
was all that Janie knew to say. 

"He didn't do nothin' but hold us back—talkin' 'bout work 
when de race ain't never done nothin* else. He wuz uh enemy 
tuh us, dat's whut. He wuz uh white folks' nigger." 

According to all Janie had been taught this was sacrilege so 
she sat without speaking at all. But Mrs. Turner went on. 

"Ah done sent fuh mah brother tuh come down and spend 
uh while wid us. He's sorter outa work now. Ah wants yuh tuh 



Their Eyes Were Watching God 25* 143 

meet him mo* special. You and him would make up uh swell cou- 
ple if you wuzn't already married. He's uh fine carpenter, when 
he kin git anything tuh do.* 

"Yeah, maybe so. But Ah ^married now, so 'tain't no use in 
considering 

Mrs. Turner finally rose to go after being very firm about sev- 
eral other viewpoints of either herself, her son or her brother. She 
begged Janie to drop in on her anytime, but never once men- 
tioning Tea Cake. Finally she was gone and Janie hurried to her 
kitchen to put on supper and found Tea Cake sitting in there with 
his head between his hands. 

"Tea Cake! Ah didn't know you wuz home." 

"Ah know yuh didn't. Ah been heah uh long time listenin* to 
dat heifer run me down tuh de dawgs uh try tuh tole you off 
from me." 

"So dat whut she wuz up to} Ah didn't know," 

"'Course she is. She got some no-count brother she wants 
yuh tuh hook up wid and take keer of Ah reckon. " 

"Shucks! If dat's her notion she's barkin' up de wrong tree. 
Mali hands is fall already." 

"Thanky Ma'am. Ah hates dat woman lak poison. Keep her 
from round dis house. Her look lak uh white woman! Wid dat 
meriny skin and hair jus' as close tuh her head as ninety-nine is 
tuh uh hundred? Since she hate black folks so, she don't need our 
money in her oP eatin' place. Ah '11 pass de word along. We kin go 
tub dat white man's place and git good treatment. Her and dat 
whittlcd-down husband uh hers! And dat son! He's jus' uh dirty 
trick her womb played on her. Ah'm telling her husband tuh keep 
her home. Ah don't want her round dis house " 

One day Tea Cake met Turner and his son on the street. He 
was a vanishing-looking kind of a man as if there used to be parts 
about him that stuck out individually but now he hadn't a thing 



144 Zora Nealc Hurston 



about him that wasn't dwindled and blurred. Just like he had 
been sand-papered down to a long oval mass. Tea Cake felt sorry 
for him without knowing why. So he didn't blurt out the insults 
he had intended. But he couldn't hold in everything. They talked 
about the prospects for the coming season for a moment, then 

Tea Cake said, *Yo' mfe don't seem tuh have nothin' much tuh 

i 

do, so she kin visit uli lot. Mine got too much tuh do tuh go vis- 
itin' and too much tuh spend time talkin' tuh folks dat visit her." 

"Mah wife takes time fah whatever she wants tuh do. Real 
strong headed dat way. Yes indeed. 7 ' He laughed a high tungless 
laugh. "De chiiiun don't keep her in no mo' so she visits when 
she chooses. " 

"De chiiiun?" Tea Cake asked him in surprise. "You got any 
smaller than him>" He indicated the son who seemed around 
twenty or so. "Ah ain't seen yo' others." 

"Ah reckon you ain't 'cause dey ail passed on befo' dis one 
wuz born. We ain't had no luck atall wid our chiiiun. We lucky to 
raise him. He's de last stroke of exhausted nature." 

He gave his powerless laugh again and Tea Cake and the boy 
joined in with him. Then Tea Cake walked on off and went home 
to Janie. 

"Her husband can't do nothin' wid dat butt-headed woman. 
All you can do is treat her cold whenever she come round here." 

Janie tried that, but sShort of telling Mrs. Turner bluntly, there 
was nothing she could do to discourage her completely. She felt 
honored by Janie's acquaintance and she quickly forgave and for- 
got snubs in order to keep it. Anyone who looked more white folk- 
ish than herself was better than she was in her criteria, therefore it 
was right that they should be cruel to her at times, just as she was 
cruel to those more negroid than herself in direct ratio to their 
negroness. Like the pecking-order in a chicken yard. Insensate cru- 
elty to those you can whip, and groveling submission to those you 



Their Eyes Were Watching God Jfr 145 

can't. Once having set up her idols and built altars to them it was 
inevitable that she would worship there. It was inevitable that she 
should accept any inconsistency and cruelty from her deity as all 
good worshippers do from theirs, All gods who receive homage 
are cruel. All gods dispense suffering without reason. Otherwise 
they would not be worshipped, Through indiscriminate suffering 
men know fear and fear is the most divine emotion. It is the stones 
for altars and the beginning of wisdom. Half gods are worshipped 
in wine and flowers. Real gods require blood. 

Mrs. Turner, like ail other believers had built an altar to the 
unattainable— Caucasian characteristics for all. Her god would 
smite her, would hurl her from pinnacles and lose her in deserts, 
but she would not forsake his altars. Behind her crude words was a 
belief that somehow she and others through worship could attain 
her paradise — a heaven of straighthaired, thin-lipped, high-nose 
boned white seraphs. The physical impossibilities in no way injured 
feith. That was the mystery and mysteries are the chores of gods. 
Beyond her faith was a fanaticism to defend the altars of her god. 
It was distressing to emerge from her inner temple and find these 
black desccrators howling with laughter before the door. Oh, for 
an army, terrible with banners and swords! 

So she didn't cling to Janie Woods the woman. She paid 
homage to Janie's Caucasian characteristics as such. And when 
she was with Janie she had a feeling of transmutation, as if she 
herself had become whiter and with straighter hair and she hated 
Tea Cake first for his defilement of divinity and next for his telling 
mockery of her. If she only knew something she could do about 
it! But she didn't. Once she was complaining about the carry- 
ings-on at the jook and Tea Cake snapped, "Aw, don't make God 
look so foolish — findin* fault wid everything He made." 

So Mrs. Turner frowned most of the time. She had so much 
to disapprove of It didn't affect Tea Cake and Janie too much. It 



146 Ify Zora Neaie Humon 



just gave them something to talk about ill the summertime when 
everything was dull on the muck. Otherwise they made little trips 
to Palm Beach, Fort Myers and Fort Lauderdale for their fun. 
Before they realized it the sun was cooler and the crowds came 
pouring onto the muck again. 




A great deal of the old crowd were back But there were lots of new 
ones too- Some of these men made passes at J&nic, and women 
who didn't know took out after Tea Cake- Didn't take them 
long to be put right, however Still and all, jealousies arose now 
and then on both sides. When Mrs- Turner's brother came and 
she brought him over to be introduced, Tea Cake had a brain- 
storm. Before the week was over he had whipped Janie- Not 
because her behavior justified his jealousy, but it relieved that 
awful (car inside him- Being able to whip her reassured him in 
possession- No brutal beating at all- He just slapped her around 
a bit to show he was boss- Everybody talked about it next day in 
the fields- It aroused a sort of envy in both men and women. 
The way he petted and pampered her as if those two or three 
face slaps had nearly killed her made the women see visions and 
the helpless way she hung on him made men dream dreams- 

"Tea Cake, you sho is a lucky man" Sop-de-Bottom told 
him- "Uh person can see every place you hit her- Ah bet she 
never raised her hand tuh hit yuh back, neither- Take some uh 
dese oP rusty black women and dey would fight yuh all night 
long and next day nobody couldn't tell you ever hit 'em. Dat*s 
de reason Ah done quit beatin* mah woman- You can't make no 



148 JBr Zotz Neale Humon 



mark on 'cm at all. Lawd! wouldn't Ah love tuh whip uh tender 
woman lak Janie! All bet she don't even holler. She jus* cries^ eh 
Tea Cake?" 

"Dat's rights 

"See dat! Mah woman would spread her lungs all over Palm 
Beach County, let alone knock out mah jaw teeth. You don't 
know dat woman uh mine. She got ninety-nine rows uh jaw teeth 
and git her good and mad, she'll wade through solid rock up to 
her hip pockets," 

"Mah Janie is uh high time woman and uscrex things. Ah 
didn't git her outa de middle uh de road. Ah got her outa uh big 
fine house. Right now she got money enough in de bank tuh buy 
up dese ziggaboos and give 'em away," 

"Hush yo' moufl And she down heah on de muck lak any- 
body else!" 

" Janie is wherever Ah wants tuh be, Dat's de kind uh wife she 
is and Ah love her for it. Ah wouldn't be knockin* her around. Ah 
didn't wants whup her last night, but oP Mis' Turner done sent 
for her brother tuh come tuh bait Janie in and take her way from 
me. Ah didn't whup Janie 'cause she done nothin'. Ah beat her 
tuh show dem Turners who is boss. Ah set in de kitchen one day 
and heard dat woman tell mah wife Ah'm too black fuh her. She 
don't see how Janie can stand me." 

"Tell her husband on her." 

"Shucks! Ah b'lieve he's skeered of her," 

"Knock her teeth down her throat." 

"Dat would look like she had some influence when she ain't. 
Ah jus' let her see dat Ah got control," 

"So she live oflfe our money and don't lak black folks, huh? 
CK. we'll have her gone from here befo' two weeks is up. Ah'm 
goin' right off tuh all de men and drop rocks aginst her," 

"Ah ain't mad wid her for whut she done, 'cause she ain't 



Their Eyes Were Watching God 4* 149 

done me nothin' yet, Ah'm mad at her for thinkin\ Her and her 
gang got tuh go," 

"Us is wid yuh, Tea Cake, You know dat already, Dat Turner 
woman is real smart, accordin' tuh her notions, Reckon she done 
heard 'bout dat money yo J wife got in de bank and she's bound 
tuh rope her in tuh her family one way or another," 

"Sop, Ah don't think it's half de money as it is de looks, She's 
color-struck, She ain't got de kind of uh mind yon meet every 
day, She ain*t a fact and neither do she make a good story when 
you tell about her," 

"Ah yeah, she's too smart tuh stay round heah, She figgers 
we'se jus' nh bunch uh dumb niggers so she think she'll grow 
horns, But dat's uh lie, She'll die butt-headed," 

Saturday afternoon when the work tickets were turned into 
cash everybody began to buy coon-dick and get drunk, By dusk 
dark Belle Glade was full of loud -talking, staggering men. Plenty 
women had gotten their knots charged too. The police chief in 
his speedy Ford was rushing from jook to jook and eating house 
trying to keep order, but making few arrests, Not enough jail- 
space for all the drunks so why bother with a few? All he could do 
to keep down fights and get the white men out of colored town 
by nine o'clock, Dick Sterrett and Coodemay seemed to be the 
worst off. Their likker told them to go from place to place push- 
ing and shoving and loud-talking and they were doing it. 

Way after a while they arrived at Mrs. Turner's eating house 
and found the place fall to the limit. Tea Cake, Stew Beef, Sop- 
de-Bottom, Bootyny, Motor Boat and all the familiar crowd was 
there, Coodemay straightened up as if in surprise and asked, 
"Say, whut y'al) doin* in heah?" 

"Eatin'," Stew Beef told him, "Dey got beef stew, so yon 
know Ah'd be heah." 

iC Wc all laks tuh take uh rest from our women folks' cookin' 



150 Zora Ne&ic Hurston 

once in uh while, so us all eatin 1 way from home tuhnight. Any- 
how Mis' Turner got de best ok grub in town." 

Mrs- Turner back and forth in the dining room heard Sop 
when he said this and beamed- 

"Ah speck you two last ones tuh come in is gointuh have tuh 
wait for uh seat- Ah'm ail full up now" 

"Dat's ail right," Sterrett objected. "You fry me some fish- 
Ah kin cat dat standin' up- Cuppa coffee on de side-" 

"Sling me up uh plate uh dat stew beef wid some coffee too, 
please ma'am- Sterrett is jus* ez drunk ez Ah is; and if he kin eat 
standin' up, Ah kin do de same-" Coodemay leaned drunkenly 
against the wall and everybody laughed- 

Pretty soon the girl that was waiting table for Mrs- Turner 
brought in the order and Sterrett took his fish and coffee in his 
hands and stood there. Coodemay wouldn't take his off the tray 
like he should have- 

"Naw, you hold it fuh me, baby, and iemme eat," he told the 
waitress. He took the fork and started to eat off the tray- 

"Nobody ain't got no time tuh hold yo* grub up m front uh 
yo' face," she told Coodemay, "Heah, take it yo'self" 

"You'sc right," Coodemay told her- "Gimme it heah- Sop 
kin gimme his chear-" 

"YouV uh lie," Sop retorted- "Ah ain't through and Ah 
ain't ready tuh git up-" 

Coodemay tried to shove Sop out of the chair and Sop 
resisted- That brought on a whole lot of shoving and scrambling 
and coffee got spilt on Sop- So he aimed at Coodemay with a 
saucer and hit Bootyny Bootyny threw his thick coffee cup at 
Coodemay and just missed Stew Beef- So it got to be a big fight. 
Mrs- Turner came running in out of the kitchen- Then Tea Cake 
got up and caught hold of Coodemay by the coilar- 

"Looka heah, y'all, don't come in heah and raise no disturbance 



Their Byes Were Watching God <^ 151 

in de place. Mis* Turner is too nice uh woman fob dat. In fact, she's 
more nicer than anybody else on de muck." Mrs. Turner beamed 
on Tea Cake, 

u Ah knows dat. All of us knows it. But Ah don't give uh 
damn how nice she is. Ah got tuh have some place tuh set down 
and eat. Sop ain*t gointuh bluff me, neither. Let *tm fight lak a 
man. Take yo* hands off me, Tea Cake." 

H Naw, Ah won't neither. You comin* on outa de place." 

"Who gointuh make me come out?" 

"Me, dat's who. Ah'm in heah, ain't Ah? If you don't want 
tuh respect nice people lak Mrs. Turner, God knows you gointuh 
respect me! Come on outa heah, Coodemay." 

H Turn him loose, Tea Cake!" Sterrett shouted. "Dat's mah 
buddy. Us come in heah together and he ain't goin* nowhere 
until Ah go mahself." 

"Well, both ofyuh is goin*! w Tea Cake shouted and fastened 
down on Coodemay. Dockery grabbed Sterrett and they wrassled 
all over the place. Some more joined hi and dishes and tables 
began to crash. 

Mrs. Turner saw with dismay that Tea Cake's taking them 
out was worse than letting them stay in. She ran out in the back 
somewhere and got her husband to put a stop to things. He came 
in, took a look and squinched down into a chair in an off corner 
and didn't open his mouth. So Mrs. Turner struggled into the 
mass and caught Tea Cake by the arm. 

"Dat's all right, Tea Cake, Ah 'predate yo J help, but leave 
'em alone." 

"Naw suh, Mis' Turner, Ah'm gointuh show 'em dey can't 
come runnin 1 over nice people and loud-talk no place whilst 
Ah'm around. Dey goin' outa heah!" 

By that time everybody in and around the place was taking 
sides. Somehow or other Mrs. Turner fell down and nobody 



l£2 Zora Neale Hurston 



knew she was down there under all the fighting, and broken 
dishes and crippled up tables and broken-off chair legs and win- 
dow panes and such things. It got so that the floor was knee -deep 
with something no matter where you put your foot down. But 
Tea Cake kept right on until Coodemay told him, "Ah'm wrong. 
Ah'm wrong! TPall tried tuh tell me right and Ah wouldn't lissen* 
Ah ain't mad wid nobody, Just tuh show y'all Ah ain't mad, me 
and Sterrett gointuh buy everybody somethm' tuh drink. Ole 
man Vickers got some good coondick over round Pahokee. 
Come on everybody, Let's go git our knots charged * Everybody 
got in a good humor and left. 

Mrs. Turner got up off the floor hollering ft>r the police. Look 
at her place! How come nobody didn't cali the police? Then she 
found out that one of her hands was all stepped on and her fingers 
were bleeding pretty peart. Two or three people who were not 
there during the fracas poked thek heads in at the door to sympa- 
thize but that made Mrs. Turner madder. She told them where to 
go in a hurry. Then she saw her husband sitting over there in the 
corner with his long bony legs all crossed up smoking his pipe. 

"What kinda man is you, Turner? You see dese no count niggers 
come in heah and break up mah place! How kin you set and see yo' 
wife all trompled on? You ain't no kinda man at all. Yoti seen dat Tea 
Cake shove me down! Yes you did! You ain't raised yo' hand tuh do 
nothin' about it." 

Turner removed his pipe and answered: "Yeah, and you see 
how Ah did swell up too, didn't yuh? You tell Tea Cake he better 
be keerful Ah don't swell up again." At that Turner crossed his 
legs the other way and kept right on smoking his pipe. 

Mrs. Turner hit at him the best she could with her hurt hand 
and then spoke her mind for half an hour. 

"It's a good thing mah brother wuzn't round heah when it 
happened do he would uh kilt somebody. Mah son too. Dey got 



Their Eyes Were Watching God 4r 153 

some manhood about 'em. Wc*se goirf back tuh Miami where 
folks is civilized." 

Nobody told her right away that her son and brother were 
already on their way after pointed warnings outside the cafe. No 
time for fooling around. They were hurrying into Palm Beach. 
SheM find out about that later on. 

Monday morning Coodemay and Sterrett stopped by and 
begged her pardon profusely and gave her five dollars apiece. Then 
Coodemay said, "Dey tell me Ah wuz drunk Sat'day night and 
clownin' down. Ah don't 'member uh thing 'bout it. But when Ah 
git tuh peepin* through mall likker, dey tell mc Ah'm uh mess." 



18 




Since Tea Cake and Janie had friended with the Bahaman workers 
in the 'Glades> they, the "Saws,* had been gradually drawn into 
the American crowd- They quit hiding out to hold their dances 
when they found that their American friends didn't laugh at them 
as they feared- Many of the Americans learned to jump and iiked 
it as much as the "Saws." So they began to hold dances night 
after night in the quarters, usually behind Tea Cake's house- 
Often now, Tea Cake and Janie stayed up so late at the fire dances 
that Tea Cake would not let her go with him to the field. He 
wanted her to get her rest. 

So she was home by herself one afternoon when she saw a 
band of Seminoies passing by The men walking in front and the 
laden, stolid women following them like burros. She had seen 
Indians several times in the 'Glades, in twos and threes, but this 
was a large party. They were headed towards the Palm Beach road 
and kept moving steadily. About an hour later another party 
appeared and went the same way Then another just before sun- 
down. This time she asked where they were all going and at last 
one of the men answered her. 

"Going to high ground. Saw-grass bloom. Hurricane coming. " 

Everybody was talking about it that night. But nobody was 



Their Eyes Were Watching God 4^ 155 

worried, The fire dance kept up till nearly dawn, The next day, 
more Indians moved east, unhurried but steady Still a blue sky 
and fair weather, Beans running fine and prices good, so the Indi- 
ans could be, must be, wrong, You couldn't have a hurricane 
when you're making seven and eight dollars a day picking beans, 
Indians are dumb anyhow, always were, Another night of Stew 
Beef making dynamic subtleties with his drum and living, sculp- 
tural, grotesques in the dance, Next day, no Indians passed at all, 
It was hot and sultry and Janie left the field and went home, 

Morning came without motion, The winds, to the tiniest, 
lisping baby breath had left the earth, Even before the sun gave 
light, dead day was creeping from bush to bush watching man, 

Some rabbits scurried through the quarters going east. Some 
possums slunk by and dicir route was definite, One or two at a 
time, then more, By the time the people left the fields the proces- 
sion was constant, Snakes, rattlesnakes began to cross the quarters, 
The men killed a few, but they could not be missed from the crawl- 
ing horde, People stayed indoors until daylight. Several times dur- 
ing the night Janie heard the snort of big animals like deer, Once 
the muted voice of a panther, Going east and east, That night the 
palm and banana trees began that long distance talk with rain, Sev- 
eral people took fright and picked up and went in to Palm Beach 
anyway. A thousand buzzards held a flying meet and then went 
above the clouds and stayed, 

One of the Bahaman boys stopped by Tea Cake's house in a 
car and hollered. Tea Cake came out throwm' laughter over his 
shoulder into the house. 

"Hello Tea Cake* 

"Hello 'Lias, You leaving Ah see," 

"Yeah man, You and Janie wanta go? Ah wouldn't give 
nobody else uh chawnce at uh seat till Ah found out if you all had 
anyway tub go," 



156 Zora Ncale Humon 



"Thank yuh ever so much, lias. But we 'bout decided tuh 
stay." 

tt De crow gahn up, man." 

"Dat ain't nothin\ You ain't seen de bossman gp up* is yuh? 
Well all right now. Man, de money's too good on the muck. It's 
liable tuh lair off by tuhmorrer. Ah wouldn't leave if Ah wnz you." 

"Alah uncle come for me. He say hurricane warning out in 
Palm Beach. Not so bad dere, but man, dis muck ts too low and 
dat big lake is liable tuh bust." 

"Ah naw, man. Some boys in dere now talkin' 'bout it. Some 
of 'em been in de 'Glades fiih years. 'Tain't nothing but uh lil 
blow. You'll lose de whole day tuhmorrer tryin* tuh git back out 
heah." 

"De Indians gahn east, man. It's dangerous." 

*Dey don't always know. Indians don't know much uh 
nothm\ tuh tell de truth. Else dey'd own dis country still. De 
white folks ain't gone nowhere. Dey oughta know if it's danger- 
ous. You better stay heah, man. Big jumpin' dance ruhnight right 
heah* when it fair off." 

lias hesitated and started to climb out, but his uncle wouldn't 
let him. "Dis time tuhmorrer you gointuh wish you follow crow," 
he snorted and drove off. lias waved back to them gaily. 

"If Ah never see you no mo' on earth, AMI meet you in 
Africa." 

Others hurried cast like the Indians and rabbits and snakes 
and coons. But the majority sat around laughing and waiting for 
the sun to get friendly again. 

Several men collected at Tea Cake's house and sat around 
stuffing courage into each other's cars. Janie baked a big pan of 
beans and something she called sweet biscuits and they all man- 
aged to be happy enough. 

Most of the great flame-throwers were there and naturally. 



Their Eyes Were Watching God W> 157 



handling Big John de Conquer and his works. How he had done 
everything big on earth, then went up tuh heben without dying 
atall Went up there picking a guitar and got all de angels doing the 
ring-shout round and round de throne. Then everybody but God 
and Old Peter flew off on a flying race to Jericho and back and 
John de Conquer won the race; went on down to hell, beat the old 
devil and passed out ice water to everybody down there. Some- 
body tried to say that it was a mouth organ harp that John was 
playing, but the rest of them would not hear that. Don't care how 
good anybody could play a harp, God would rather to hear a gui- 
tar. That brought them back to Tea Cake. How come he couldn't 
hit that box a lick or two? Weil, all right now, make ns know it. 

When it got good to everybody > Muck-Boy woke up and 
began to chant with the rhythm and everybody bore down on 
the last word of the line: 

Yo' mama don't wear no Draws 
Ah seen her when she took 'em Off 
She soaked 'cm in zlcoHol 
She sold 'em tuh de Santy Claus 
He told her 'twas aginst de Law 
To wear dem dirty Draws 

Then Muck- Boy went crazy through the feet and danced 
himself and everybody else crazy. When he finished he sat back 
down on the fl<x>r and went to sleep again. Then they got to 
playing Florida flip and coon-can. Then it was dice. Not for 
money. This was a show-off game. Everybody posing his fancy 
shots. As always it broiled down to Tea Cake and Motor Boat. 
Tea Cake with his shy grin and Motor Boat with his face like a lit- 
de black cherubim just from a church tower doing amazing 
things with anybody's dice. The others forgot the work and the 



158 4* Zora Ncale Hurston 

weather watching them throw. It was art. A thousand dollars a 
throw in Madison Square Garden wouldn*t have gotten any 
more breathless suspense. It would have just been more people 
holding in. 

After a while somebody looked out and said, "It ain't gitting 
no fairer out dere. Believe Ah^ll git on over tuh mail shack." 
Motor Boat and Tea Cake were still playing so everybody left 
them at it. 

Sometime that night the winds came back. Everything in the 
world had a strong ratde, sharp and short like Stew Beef vibrat- 
ing the drum head near the edge with his fingers. By morning 
Gabriel was playing the deep tones in the center of the drum. So 
when Janie looked out of her door she saw the drifting mists 
gathered in the west—that cloud field of the sky—to arm them- 
selves with thunders and march forth against the world. Louder 
and higher and lower and wider the sound and motion spread, 
mounting, sinking, darking. 

It woke up old Okechobee and the monster began to roll in 
his bed. Began to roll and complain like a peevish world on a 
grumble. The folks in the quarters and the people in the big 
houses further around the shore heard the big lake and won- 
dered. The people felt uncomfortable but safe because there were 
the seawalls to chain the senseless monster in his bed. The folks 
let the people do the thinking. If the castles thought themselves 
secure, the cabins needn't worry. Their decision was already 
made as always. Chink up your cracks, shiver in your wet beds 
and wait on the mercy of the Lord. The bossman might have the 
thing stopped before morning anyway. It is so easy to be hopeful 
in the day time when you can sec the things you wish on. But it 
was night, it stayed night. Night was striding across nothingness 
with the whole round world in his hands. 

A big burst of thunder and lightning that trampled over the 



Their Eyes Were Watching God 159 

roof of the house. So Tea Cake and Motor stopped playing. 
Motor looked up in his angel-looking way and said, "Big Massa 
draw him chair upstairs." 

"Ah'm giad y'all stop dat crap-shootin' even if it wasn't for 
money," Janie said. "Ole Massa is doixi' His work now. Us 
oughta keep quiet." 

They huddled closer and stared at the door. They just didn't 
use another part of their bodies, and they didn't look at anything 
but the door. The time was past for asking the white folks what 
to look for through that door. Six eyes were questioning God. 

Through the screaming wind they heard things crashing and 
things hurtling and dashing with unbelievable velocity. A baby 
rabbit, terror ridden, squirmed through a hole in the floor and 
squatted off there in the shadows against the wall, seeming to 
blow that nobody wanted its flesh at such a time. And the lake 
got madder and madder with only its dikes between them and 
him. 

In a little wind-lull, Tea Cake touched Janie and said, "Ah 
reckon you wish now you had of stayed in yo' big house 'way 
from such as dis, don't yuh>* 

"Naw." 

«Naw>* 

"Yeah, naw. People don't die till dey time come nohow, 
don't keer where you at. Ah'm wid mah husband in uh storm, 
dat'sall" 

"Thanky, Ma'am. But 'sposing you wuz tuh die, now. You 
wouldn't git mad at me for draggin' yuh heah?" 

"Naw. We been tuhgether round two years. If you kin see de 
light at daybreak, you don't keer if you die at dusk. It's so many 
people never seen de light at all. Ah wuz fumblin' round and God 
opened de door." 

He dropped to the floor and put his head in her lap. "Well then, 



160 ^Br Zora Neale Hurston 



Jame, you meant whut you didn't say, 'cause Ah never knowed yon 
wuz so satisfied wid me iak dat. Ah kinda thought — w 

The wind came back with triple fiiry, and put out the light 
for the last time. They sat in company with the others in other 
shanties, their eyes straining against crude walls and their souls 
asking if He meant to measure their puny might against His. 
They seemed to be staring at the dark, but their eyes were 
watching God. 

As soon as Tea Cake went out pushing wind in front of hi m, 
he saw that the wind and water had given life to lots of tilings that 
folks think of as dead and given death to so much that had been 
living things. Water everywhere. vStray fish swimming in the yard. 
Three inches more and the water would be in the house. Already 
in some. He decided to try to find a car to take them out of the 
'Glades before worse things happened. He turned back to tell 
Janie about it so she could be ready to go. 

"Git our insurance papers tuhgether, Janie. Ah' 11 tote mah 
box mahsclf and things lak dat." 

"You got all de money out dc dresser di^wer, already?" 

u Naw, git it quick and cut up piece off de tabie-cloth tuh 
wrap it up in. Us liable tuh git wet tuh our necks. Cut uh piece 
uh dat oilcloth quick ftih our papers. We got tuh go, if it ain't too 
late. De dish can't bear it out no longer. " 

He snatched the oilclodi off the tabic and took out his knife. 
Janie held it straight while he slashed off a strip. 

"Rut Tea Cake, it's too awful out dere. Maybe it's better tuh 
stay heah in de wet than it is tuh try tuh — ™ 

He stunned the argument with half a word. "Fix," he said 
and fought his way outside. He had seen more than Janie had. 

Janie took a big needle and ran up a longish sack. Found some 
newspaper and wrapped up the paper money and papers and thrust 
them in and whipped over the open end with her needle. Before 



Their Byes Were Watching God <Qp 161 

she could get it thoroughly hidden in the pocket of her overalls, 
Tea Cake burst in again- 

"Tain't no cars, Janie-" 

-Ah thought not? Whut we gointuh do now?" 

"We got tuh walk-* 

"In all dis weather, Tea Cake? Ah don't b'licve Ah could 
make it out de quarters-" 

"Oh yeah you kin- Me and you and Motor Boat kin all lock 
arms and hold one Mother down- Eh, Motor?" 

"He's sleep on de bed in yonder, w Janie said- Tea Cake called 
without moving- 

"Motor Boat! You better git up from dereS Hcil done broke 
loose in Georgy- Dis minute) How kin you sleep at uh time lak 
dis? Water knee deep in de yard." 

They stepped out in water almost to their buttocks and man- 
aged to turn east- Tea Cake had to throw his box away, and Janie 
saw how it hurt him- Dodging flying missiles, floating dangers, 
avoiding stepping in holes and warmed on the wind now at their 
backs until they gained comparatively dry land- They had to fight 
to keep from being pushed the wrong way and to hold together- 
They saw other people like themselves struggling along- A house 
down, here and there, frightened cattle. But above all the drive of 
the wind and the water- And the lake- Under its multiplied roar 
could be heard a mighty sound of grinding rock and timber and 
a wail- They looked back- Saw people trying to run in raging 
waters and screaming when they found they couldn't, A huge 
barrier of the makings of the dike to which the cabins had been 
added was rolling and tumbling forward. Ten feet higher and as 
far as they could see the muttering wall advanced before the 
braced-up waters like a road crusher on a cosmic scale- The mon- 
stropolous beast had left his bed- The two hundred miles an hour 
wind had loosed his chains- He seized hold of his dikes and ran 



162 Zora Ncak Hurston 



forward until he met the quarters; uprooted them like grass and 
rushed on after his supposed -to-be conquerors, rolling the dikes, 
rolling the houses, rolling the people in the houses along with 
other timbers. The sea was walking the earth with a heavy heel 

a De lake is coming" Tea Cake gasped, 

"De lake!" In amazed horror from Motor Boat, "De lake!" 

"It's comin' behind us!" Janie shuddered, "Us can't fly," 

"But we still kin run," Tea Cake shouted and they ran. The 
gushing water ran faster. The great body was held back, but rivers 
spouted through fissures in the rolling wall and broke like day. 
The three fugitives ran past another line of shanties that topped a 
slight rise and gained a little. They cried out as best they couid, 
"De lake is comin'P and barred doors flew open and others 
joined them in flight crying the same as they went, "De lake is 
comin'S" and the pursuing waters growled and shouted ahead, 
"Yes^ Ah'm comin'S^ and those who could fled on. 

They made it to a tall house on a hump of ground and Janie 
said, "Less stop heah. Ah can't make it no further Ah'm done 
give out," 

"All of us is done give out," Tea Cake corrected, "We'se 
goui' inside out dis weather, kill or cure," He knocked with the 
handle of his knife, while they leaned their faces and shoulders 
against the wall. He knocked once more then he and Motor Boat 
went round to the back and forced a door, Nobody there, 

"Dese people had mo' sense than Ah did," Tea Cake said as 
they dropped to the floor and lay there panting, "Us oughta 
went on wid 'Lias lak he ast me," 

"You didn't know" Janie contended, "And when yuh don't 
know, yuh just don't know, De storms might not of come sho nuff," 

They went to sleep promptly but Janie woke up first. She 
heard the sound of rushing water and sat up. 

"Tea Cake! Motor Boat! De lake is tomin\ r " 



Their Byes Were Watching God jB* 163 



The lake was coming on. Slower and wider, but coining. It 
had trampled on most of its supporting wall and lowered its front 
by spreading. But it came muttering and grumbling onward like 
a tired mammoth just the same. 

"Dis is uh high tall house. Maybe it won't reach heah at all," 
Janie counseled. "And if it do, maybe it won't reach tuh dc 
upstairs part." 

"Tame, I,ake Okechobee is forty miles wide and sixty miles 
long. Dat's uh whole heap uh water. If dis wind is shovin' dat 
whole lake disa way, dis house ain't nothin' nth swaller, Us better 
go. Motor Boat!" 

"Whut you want^ man>" 

"De lake is comin'!" 

"Aw, naw it 'tain't." 

"Yes, it is so comin'! Listen! You kin hear it way off." 

"It kin jus' come on. Ah '11 wait right here." 

"Aw, get up, Motor Boat! Less make it tuh de Palm Beach 
road. Dat's on uh fill. We'se pretty safe dere." 

"Ah'm safe here, man. Go ahead if yuh wants to. Ah'm 
sleepy." 

"Whut you gointuh do if de lake reach hcah>" 

"Go upstairs. " 

"S'posing it come up dere>" 

"Swim, man, Dat's all." 

"Well, uh, Good bye, Motor Boat. Everything is pretty bad, 
yuh know. Us might git missed of one 'nother. You sho is a grand 
friend fuh uh man tuh have." 

"Good bye, Tea Cake. Y'all oughta stay here and sleep, man. 
No use in goin' off and leavin' me lak dis." 

"We don't wanta. Come on wid us. It might be night time 
when de water hem you up in heah. Dat's how come Ah won't 
stay. Come on > man." 



164 4tr Zora Nealc Hurston 

"Tea Cake, Ah got tuh have mah sleep. Definitely." 

"Good bye, then, Motor. Ah wish you all de luck. Goin' over 
tuh Nassau fab dat visit widja when ail dis is over." 

"Definitely, Tea Cake. Mah mama's house is yours." 

Tea Cake and Janie were some distance from the house 
before they struck serious water. Then they had to swim a dis- 
tance, and Janie could not hold up more than a few strokes at a 
time, so Tea Cake bore her up till finally they bit a ridge that led 
on towards the fill. It seemed to him the wind was weakening a 
little so he kept looking for a place to rest and catch his breath. 
His wind was gone. Janie was tired and limping, but she had not 
had to do that hard swimming in the turbulent waters, so Tea 
Cake was much worse off. But they couldn't stop. Gaining the 
fill was something but it was no guarantee. The lake was com- 
ing. They had to reach the six-mile bridge. It was high and safe 
perhaps. 

Everybody was walking the filK Hurrying, dragging, felling, 
crying, calling out names hopefully and hopelessly. Wind and rain 
beating on old folks and beating on babies. Tea Cake stumbled 
once or twice in his weariness and Janie held him up. So they 
reached the bridge at Six Mile Bend and thought to rest. 

But it was crowded. White people had preempted that point of 
elevation and there was no more room. They could climb up one 
of its high sides and down the other, that was all. Miles further on, 
still no rest. 

They passed a dead man in a sitti ng position on a hummock, 
entirely surrounded by wild animals and snakes. Common dan- 
ger made common friends. Nothing sought a conquest over the 
other. 

Ahother man clung to a cypress tree on a tiny island. A tin 
roof of a building hung from the branches by electric wires and 
the wind swung it back and forth like a mighty ax. The man dared 



Their Eyes Were Watching God 165 

not move a step to his right lest this crushing blade split him 
open. He dared not step left for a large rattlesnake was stretched 
Ml length with his head in the wind. There was a strip of water 
between the island and the fill, and the man clung to the tree and 
cried for help. 

"De snake won't bite yuh," Tea Cake yelled to him. "He 
skcered tub go intuh uh coi3. Skeered hell be blowed away. Step 
round dat side and swim off!" 

Soon after that Tea Cake felt he couldn't walk anymore. Not 
right away. So he stretched long side of the road to rest. Janie 
spread herself between him and the wind and he closed his eyes 
and let the tiredness seep out of his iimbs. On each side of the fill 
was a great expanse of water like lakes — water fall of things living 
and dead. Things that didn't belong in water. As far as the eye 
could reach, water and wind playing upon it in fury. A large piece 
of tar-paper roofing sailed through the air and scudded along the 
fill until it hung against a tree. Janie saw it with joy. That was the 
very thing to cover Tea Cake with. She could lean against it and 
hold it down . The wind wasn't quite so bad as it was anyway. The 
very thing. Poor Tea Cake! 

She crept on hands and knees to the piece of roofing and 
caught hold of it by either side. Immediately the wind lifted both of 
them and she saw herself sailing of? the fill to the right, out and out 
over the lashing water. She screamed terribly and released the roof- 
ing which sailed away as she plunged downward into the water. 

"Tea Cake!" He heard her and sprang up. Janie was trying to 
swim but fighting water too hard. He saw a cow swimming 
slowly towards the fill in an oblique line. A massive built dog was 
sitting on her shoulders and shivering and growling. The cow 
was approaching Janie. A tew strokes would bring her there. 

"Make it tuh de cow and grab hold of her tail! Don't use yo' 
feet. Jus' yo' hands is enough. Dat's right, come on!" 



166 4^ Zora Neaie Mumon 

Jame achieved the tail of the cow and lifted her head up 
along the cow's rump, as far as she could above water. The cow 
sunk a little with the added load and thrashed a moment in ter- 
ror. Thought she was being pulled down by a gator. Then she 
continued on. The dog stood up and growled like a lion > stiff- 
standing hackles, stiff muscles, teeth uncovered as he lashed up 
his fury for the charge. Tea Cake split the water like an otter, 
opening his knife as he dived. The dog raced down the back- 
bone of the cow to the attack and Janie screamed and slipped for 
back on the tail of the cow, just out of reach of the dog's angry 
jaws. He wanted to plunge in after her but dreaded the water, 
somehow. Tea Cake rose out of the water at the cow's rump and 
seized the dog by the neck. But he was a powerful dog and Tea 
Cake was over- tired. So he didn't kill the dog with one stroke as 
he had intended, But the dog couldn't free himself either. They 
fought and somehow he managed to bite Tea Cake high up on 
his cheek-bone once. Then Tea Cake finished him and sent him 
to the bottom to stay there. The cow relieved of a great weight 
was landing on the fill with Janie before Tea Cake stroked in and 
crawled weakly upon the fill again, 

Janie began to fuss around his face where the dog had bitten 
him but he said it didn't amount to anything. "He'd uh raised 
hell though if he had uh grabbed me uh inch higher and bit me 
in mah eye. Yuh can't buy eyes in de store, yuh know." He 
flopped to the edge of the fill as if the storm wasn't going on at 
all. "Lemme rest awhile, then us got tuh make it on intuh town 
somehow." 

It was next day by the sun and the clock when they reached 
Palm Beach. It was years later by their bodies. Winters and win- 
ters of hardship and suffering. The wheel kept turning round and 
round. Hope, hopelessness and despair. But the storm blew itself 
out as they approached the city of refuge. 



Thek Eyes Were Watching God *fr 167 

Havoc was there with her mouth wide open. Back in the 
Everglades the wind had romped among lakes and trees. In the 
city it had raged among houses and men. Tea Cake and Janie 
stood on the edge of things and looked over the desolation. 

"How kin Ah find uh doctor fuh yo' face in ail dis mcss>" 
Janie wailed. 

"Ain't got dc damn doctor tuh study 'bout. Us needs uh 
place tnh rest."" 

A great deal of their money and perseverance and they found 
a place to sleep. It was just that. No place to live at all. Just sleep. 
Tea Cake looked all around and sat heavily on the side of die bed. 

"Well," he said humbly, "reckon you never 'spected tuh 
come tuh dis when you took up wid me, didja?" 

"Once upon uh time, Ah never 'spectcd nothing Tea Cakc > 
but bein' dead from the standin' still and tryin' tuh laugh. But 
you come Hong and made some thin' outa me. So Ah'm thankful 
fuh anything we come through together. * 

"Thanky, Ma'am. w 

"You was twice noble tuh save me from dat dawg. Tea Cake, 
Ah don't speck you seen his eyes lak Ah did. He didn't aim tuh 
jus' bite me, Tea Cake. He aimed tuh kill me stone dead. Ah'm 
never tuh fuhgit dem eyes. He wum't nothin' all over but pure 
hate. Wonder where he come from?" 

"Yeah, Ah did see 'im too. It wuz frightenin'. Ah didn't 
mean tuh take his hate neither. He had tuh die uh me one. Mah 
switch blade said it wuz him." 

"Po' me, he'd tore me tuh pieces, if it wuzn't fuh you, 
honey." 

"You don't have tuh say, if it wuzn't fuh me, baby, cause 
Ah'm beahy and then Ah want yuh tuh know it's uh man heah." 



19 




And then again Him~with-the-$quare-toe$ had gone back to his 
house. He stood once more and again in his high flat house with- 
out sides to it and without a roof with his soulless sword standing 
upright in his hand. His paie white horse had galloped over waters, 
and thundered over land. The time of dying was over. It was time 
to bury the dead. 

"Janie, us been in dis dirty, slouchy place two days now, and 
dat's too much. Us got tuh git outa dis house and outa dis man's 
town. Ah never did lak round heath* 

"Where we goin\ Tea Cake? Dat we don't know. 1 ' 
"Maybe> we could go back up de state, if yuh want tuh go." 
"Ah didn't say dat, but if dat is whut you — " 
"Naw, Ah ain't said nothitt* uh de kind. Ah wuz tryin' not tuh 
keep you outa yo* comfortable no longer'n you wanted tuh stay." 
"If Ah'm tn yo* way—" 

"Will you lissen at dis woman ? Me 'bout tuh bust mah 
britches tryin' tuh stay wid her and she heah — she oughta be shot 
wid tacks!" 

"All right then, you name somethm' and we'll do it. We kin 
give it uh poor man's trial anyhow." 

"Anyhow Ah done got rested up and de bed bugs is done got 



Their Byes Were Watching God 169 

too bold round heah. Ah didn't notice when mahrcstwuz broke. 
Ah'm goin' out and look around and see whut we kin do. Ah '11 
give anydiing uh common trial." 

"You better stay inside dis house and git some rest. 'Tain't 
nothin' tuh find out dcrc nohow." 

"But Ah wants tuh look and see, Janie. Maybe it's sonic 
kinda work ftih mc tuh help do." 

"Whut dey want you tuh help do, you ain't gointuh like it. 
Dcy's grabbin* all de menfotks dey kin git dey hands on and 
makin' 'em help bury dc dead. Dey claims dey's after dc unem- 
ployed, but dey ain't bein* too particular about whether you V 
employed or not. You stay in dis house. De Red Cross is doin' all 
dat kin be done otherwise ftih de sick and de 'Afflicted." 

"Ah got money on me, Janie. Dey can^t bother me. Ahyhow 
Ah wants tuh go see how things is sho nuffi Ah wants tuh see if 
Ah kin hear anything 'bout de boys from de 'Glades. Maybe dey 
all come through all right. Maybe not" 

Tea Cake went out and wandered around. Saw the hand of 
horror on everything. Houses without roofs, and roofs without 
houses. Steel and stone all crushed and crumbled like wood. The 
mother of malice had trifled with men. 

While Tea Cake was standing and looking he saw two men 
coming towards him with rifles on their shoulders. Two white 
men, so he thought about what Janie had told him and flexed his 
knees to run. But in a moment he saw that wouldn't do him any 
good. They had already seen him and they were too close to miss 
him if they shot. Maybe they would pass on by. Maybe when they 
saw he had money they would realize he was not a tramp. 

"Hello, there, Jim," the tallest one called out. "We been 
lookin' fiih you." 

"Mah name ain't no Jim," Tea Cake said watchfully. "Whut 
you been lookin' fhh me full? Ah ain't done no thin'. w 



170 49p Zora Neak Hurston 



u Dat ? s whut we want yuh fuh — not dom 1 nothio 1 . Come on 
less go bury some uh dese heah dead folks. Dey ain't gittin' 
buried fost enough." 

Tea Cake hung back defensively. "Whut Ah got tuh do wid 
dat? Ah'm uh workin' man wid money in mah pocket. Jus' got 
blowed outa de 'Glades by de storm." 

The short man made a quick move with his rifle. "Git on 
down de road dere, suh! Don't look out somebody 'II be buryin' 
you! G'wan in front uh me, suW 

Tea Cake found that he was part of a small army that had 
been pressed into service to clear the wreckage in public places 
and bury the dead. Bodies had to be searched out, carried to cer- 
tain gathering piaces and buried. Corpses were not just found in 
wrecked houses. They were under houses, tangled in shrubbery, 
floating in water, hanging in trees, drifting under wreckage. 

Trucks lined with drag kept rolling in from the 'Glades and 
other outlying parts, each with its load of twenty-five bodies. Some 
bodies folly dressed, some naked and some in all degrees of 
dishevelment. Some bodies with calm foces and satisfied hands. 
Some dead with fighting faces and eyes flung wide open in won- 
der. Death had found them watching, trying to see beyond seeing. 

Miserable, sullen men, black and white under guard had to 
keep on searching for bodies and digging graves. A huge ditch 
was dug across the white cemetery and a big ditch was opened 
across the black graveyard. Plenty quick-lime on hand to throw 
over the bodies as soon as they were received. They had already 
been unburied too long. The men were making every effort to 
get them covered up as quickly as possible. But the guards 
stopped them. They had received orders to be carried out. 

"Hey, dere, y'all! Don't dump dem bodies in de hole lak dat! 
Examine every last one of 'em and find out if they's white or black." 

"Us got tuh handle 'em slow lak dat? God have mussy! In de 



Their Eyes Were Watching God 171 



condition they's in got tuh examine 'em? Whut difference do it 

make 'bout de color? Dey ail needs buryin' in uh hurry" 

"Got orders from headquarters- They makin' coffins fuh all 
de white folks. 'Tain't nothin' but cheap pine, but dat's better' n 
nothin \ Don't dump no white folks in de hole jus' so," 

"Whut tuh do 'bout de colored folks? Got boxes full dem too?" 

"Nope- They cain't find enough of 'em tuh go 'round- Jus' 
sprinkle plenty quick-lime over 'em and cover 'em up," 

"Shucks! Nobody can't tell nothin' 'bout some uh dese bodies, 
de shape dey's in- Can't tell whether dey*s whke or black-" 

The guards had a long conference over that. After a while 
they came back and told the men, "Look at they hair, when you 
cain't tell no other way- And don't iemme ketch none uh y'ail 
dumpin' white folks, and don't be wastin' no boxes on coiored- 
They's too hard tuh git holt of right now-" 

"They's mighty particular how dese dead folks goes tuh 
judgment," Tea Cake observed to the man working next to him. 
"Look lak dey think God don't know notion' 'bout de Jim 
Crow law-" 

lea Cake had been working several hours when the thought 
of Janie worrying about him made him desperate- So when a 
truck drove up to be unloaded he bolted and ran- He was 
ordered to halt on pain of being shot at, but he kept right on and 
got away He found Janie sad and crying just as he had thought. 
They calmed each other about his absence then Tea Cake 
brought up another matter. 

"Janie, us got tuh git outa dis house and outa dis man's 
town- Ah don't mean tuh work lak dat no mo'-" 

"Naw, naw, Tea Cake- Less stay right in heah until it's all 
over. If dey can't see yuh> dey can't bother yuh-" 

"Aw naw. S'posin' dey come round searchin'? Less git outa 
heah tuhnight" 



172 4Br Zora Ncale Humoii 



"Where us goin\ Tea Cake?" 

*De quickest place is de 'Glades, Less make it on back down 
dere, Dis town is fall uh trouble and compellment," 

"But, Tea Cake, de hurricane wuz down in de 'Gkdes too. 
It'll be dead folks tuh be buried down dere too," 

Teah, Ah know, Janie, but it couldn't never be !ak it 'tis 
heah. In de first place dey been bringin' bodies outa dere all day 
so it can't be but so many mo' tuh find. And then again it never 
wuz as many dere as it wuz heah. And then too, Janie, de white 
folks down dere knows us. It's bad bein' strange Diggers wid 
white folks. Everybody is aginst yuh," 

"Dat sho is de truth, De ones de white man know is nice col- 
ored folks, De ones he don't know is bad niggers," Janie said this 
and laughed and Tea Cake laughed with her, 

"Jank, Ah done watched it time and time again; each and 
every white man think he know ail de GOOD darkies already. He 
don *t need tuh know no mo' , So &r as he*s concerned, all dem he 
don't know oughta be tried and sentenced tuh six months 
behind de United States privy house at hard smellin\" 

"How come de United States privy house, Tea Cake?" 

"Well, you know Old Uncle Sam always do have de biggest 
and de best uh everything. So de white man figger dat anything 
less than de Uncle Sam's consolidated water closet would be too 
easy. So Ah means tuh go where de white folks know me. An feels 
lak uh motherless chile round heah " 

They got things together and stole out of the house and 
away. The next morning they were back on the muck. They 
worked hard all day fixing up a house to live in so that Tea Cake 
could go out looking for something to do the next day. He got 
out soon next morning more out of curiosity than eagerness to 
work. Stayed off all day. That night he came in beaming out 
with light. 



Their Eyes Were Watching God *fr 173 

"Who you reckon Ah seen, Janie? Bet you can't guess. " 
"Ah'll betcha uh fat man you seen Sop-de~ Bottom.** 
"Yeah Ah seen him and Stew Beef and Dockery and 'Lias, 
and Coodemay and Bootyny. Guess who else!" 
"Lawd knows. Is it Stcrrettr" 

"Naw, he got caught in die rush. 'Lias help bury him in Palm 
Beach. Guess who else?" 

"Ah gVan teli me, Tea Cake. Ah don't know. It can't be 
Motor Boat." 

"Dat's jus' who it is. Ok Motor! De son of a gun laid up in dat 
house and slept and de lake come moved de house way off some- 
where and Motor didn't know nothin' 'bout it till de storm wuz 
'bout over." 

"Nawi" 

"Yeah man. Heah we nelly kill our fool selves runnin' way 
from danger and him lay up dere and steep and float on off!" 

"Well, you know dey say luck is uh fortune." 

"Dat's right too. Look, Ah got uh job uh work. Help clear- 
in' up things in general, and then dey goin' build dat dike sho 
nuff. Dat ground got to be cleared off too. Plenty work. Dey 
needs mo' men even." 

So Tea Cake made three hearty weeks. He bought another 
rifle and a pistol and he and Janie bucked each other as to who 
was the best shot with Janie ranking him always with the rifle. She 
could knock the head off of a chicken- hawk sitting up a pine tree. 
Tea Cake was a little jealous, but proud of his pupil. 

About the middle of the fourth week Tea Cake came home 
early one afternoon complaining of his head. Sick headache that 
made him lie down for a while. He woke up hungry. Janie had his 
supper ready but by the time he walked ftom the bedroom to the 
table, he said he didn't b'lieve he wanted a thing. 

"Thought you tole me you wuz hongry!" Janie wailed. 



174 4M> Zora Ncalc Hurston 



"Ah thought so too," Tea Cake said very quiedy and dropped 
his head in his hands. 

"But Ah done baked yuh uh pan uh beans/' 

"Ah knows dey's good all right but Ah don't choose nothin' 
now, Ah thank yuh, Janie." 

He went back to bed. Way in the midnight he woke Janie up 
in his nightmarish struggle with an enemy that was at his throat. 
Janie struck a light and quieted him. 

"Whut's de matter, honey?" She soothed and soothed. "You 
got tuh tell rae so Ah kin feel widja. Lemme bear de pain long 
widja, baby. Where hurt yuh, sugar?" 

"SomethhV got after me in mah sleep, Janie." He all but 
cried, "Tried tuh choke me tuh death. Hadn't been fah you Ah'd 
be dead." 

"You sho wuz strainin' wid it. But you'se all right, honey. 
Ah'm heah." 

He went on back to sleep, but there was no getting around 
it. He was sick in the morning. He tried to make it but Janie 
wouldn't hear of his going out at all. 

"If Ah kin jus' make out de week," Tea Cake said. 

"Folks wuz makin' weeks befo' you wuz born and they goin- 
tuh be makin 5 'em after youV gone. Lay back down, Tea Cake. 
Ah'm goin' git de doctor tuh come see 'bout yuh/* 

"Aw ain't dat bad, Janie. Looka heah! Ah kin walk all over de 
place." 

"But you'se too sick tuh play wid. Plenty fever round heah 
since de storm." 

"Gimme uh drink uh water befo' you leave, then." 

Janie dipped up a glass of water and brought it to the bed. 
Tea Cake took it and filled his mouth then gagged horribly, dis- 
gorged that which was in his mouth and threw the glass upon the 
floor. Janie was frantic with alarm. 



Their Eyes Were Watching God 175 



"Whut make you ack lak dat wid yo' drinkin' water, Tea 
Cake? You ast me tuh give it tuh yah.' 5 

"Dat water is somethin' wrong wid it. It nelly choke me tuh 
death. Ah tole yuh somethin* jumped on me heah last night and 
choked me. You come makin' out ah wuz drcamin\" 

"Maybe it wuz uh witch ridin' yuh, honey. AMI see can't Ah 
find some mustard seed whilst Ah's out. But Ah'm sho tuh fetch 
de doctor when Airm come." 

Tea Cake didn't say anything against it and Janie herself hur- 
ried off. This sickness to her was worse than the storm. As soon 
as she was well out of sight, Tea Cake got up and dumped the 
water bucket and washed it clean. Then he struggled to the irri- 
gation pump and filled it again. He was not accusing Janie of 
malice and design. He was accusing her of carelessness. She 
ought to realize that water buckets needed washing like every- 
thing else. He'd tell her about it good and proper when she got 
back. What was she thinking about nohow? He found himself 
very angry about it. He eased the bucket on the table and sat 
down to rest before taking a drink. 

Finally he dipped up a drink. It was so good and cool! Come to 
think about it, he hadn't had a drink since yesterday. That was what 
he needed to give him an appetite for his beans. He found himself 
wanting it very much, so he threw back his head as he rushed the 
glass to his lips. But the demon was there before him, strangling, 
killing him quickly. It was a great relief to expel the water from his 
mouth. He sprawled on the bed again and lay there shivering until 
Janie and the doctor arrived. The white doctor who had been 
around so long that he was part of the muck. Who told the work- 
men stories with brawny sweaty words in them. He came into the 
house quickly, hat sitting on the left back comer of his head. 

"Hi there, Tea Cake. What de hell's de matter with you? J 

"Wisht Ah knowed, Doc tali Simmons. But Ah sho is sick." 



176 j&P Zora Ncaie Hurston 



"Ah, naw Tea Cake. 'Tain't a thing wrong that a quart of 
coon -dick wouldn't cure. You haven't been gcttin' yo' right 
likker lately, eh?" He slapped Tea Cake lustily across his back and 
Tea Cake tried to smile as he was expected to do. But it was hard. 
The doctor opened up his bag and went ix> work. 

"You do look a little peaked, lea Cake. You got a tempera- 
ture and yo' pulse is kinda off. What you been doin' here lately?" 

"Nothin' 'cept workin' and gamin' uh little, doctah. But 
look lak water done turn't aginst me." 

"Water? How do you mean?" 

"Can't keep it on mah stomach, at all." 

"What else?" 

Janie came around the bed full of concern. 

"Doctah, Tea Cake ain't tellin' yuh everything lak he oughta. 
We wuz caught in dat hurricane out heah, and Tea Cake over- 
strained hisself swimmin' such uh long time and holdin' me up 
too, and walkin' all dem miles in de storm and then befo' he 
could git his rest he had tuh come git me out de water agin and 
fightin' wid dat big ole dawg and de dawg bitin' 'im in de face 
and everything. Ah been spectin' him tuh be sick befo' now." 

"Dawg bit 'im, did you say?" 

"Aw twudn't nothin' much, doctah. It wuz ail healed over 
in two three days," Tea Cake said impatiendy. "Dat been over 
uh month ago, nohow. Dis is somethin' new, doctah. Ah figgers 
de water is yet bad. It's bound tuh be. Too many dead folks 
been in it fuh it tuh be good tuh drink fuh uh long time. Dat's 
de way Ah figgers it anyhow." 

"All right, Tea Cake. Ah'll send you some medicine and tell 
Janie how tuh take care of you. Anyhow, I want you in a bed by 
yo'self until you hear from me. Just you keep Janie out of yo' 
bed for awhile, hear? Come on out to the car with me, Janie. I 
want to send Tea Cake some pills to take right away." 



Their Eyes Were Watching God ^ 177 



Outside he fombled in his bag and gave Janie a tiny bottle 
with a few pellets inside. 

"Give him one of these every hour to keep him quiet, Janie^ 
and stay out of his way when he gets in one of his fits of gagging 
and choking." 

"How you know he's havin' 'em, doctah? Dat's jus' what Ah 
come out hcah tuh tell yuh." 

"Janie, Fm pretty sure that was a mad dawg bit yo' husband. 
It's too late to get hold of de dawg's head. But de symptoms is all 
there. It's mighty bad dat it's gone on so long. Some shots right 
after it happened would have fixed him right up." 

*You mean he's liable tuh die, doctah?* 

"Sho is. But de worst thing is he's liable tuh suffer somethuV 
awful befo' he goes." 

"Doctor, Ah loves him fit tuh kill. Tell me anything tuh do 
and Ah '11 do it." 

"'Rout de only thing you can do, Janie, is to put him in the 
County Hospital where they can tie him down and look after 
him." 

"But he don't like no hospital at all He'd think Ah wuz tired 
uh doin' fiih 'im, when God knows Ah ain't. Ah can't stand de 
idea us tyin* Tea Cake lak he wuz uh mad dawg." 

£ *It almost amounts to dat, Janie. He's got almost no chance 
to pull through and he's liable to bite somebody else, specially 
you, and then you'll be in die same fix he's in. It's mighty bad." 

"Can't nothin* be done foh his case, doctah? Us got plenty 
money in de bank in Orlandah, doctah. See can't yuh do some- 
thin' special tuh save him. Anything it cost, doctah, Ah don't 
keer, but please, doctah." 

"Do what I can. Ah'H phone into Palm Beach right away 
for the serum which he should have had three weeks ago. I'll 
do all I can to save him^ Janie. But it looks too late. People in 



178 fjp Zora Neale Hurston 



his condition can't swallow water, you know, and m other ways 
it's terrible. 7 * 

Janie fooled around outside awhile to try and think it wasn*t 
so. If she didn't see the sickness in his face she couid imagine it 
wasn't really happening. Well, she thought, that big old dawg 
with the hatred in his eyes had killed her after all. She wished she 
had slipped off that cow-taii and drowned then and there and 
been done. But to kill her through Tea Cake was too much to 
bear. Tea Cake, the son of Evening Sun, had to die for loving her. 
She looked hard at the sky for a long time. Somewhere up there 
beyond blue ether's bosom sat He. Was He noticing what was 
going on around here? He must be because He knew everything. 
Did He mean to do this thing to Tea Cake and her? It wasn't any- 
thing she could fight. She could only ache and wait. Maybe it was 
some big tease and when He saw it had gone far enough He'd 
give her a sign. She looked hard for something up there to move 
for a sign. A star in the daytime, maybe, or the sun to shout, or 
even a mutter of thunder Her arms went up in a desperate sup- 
plication for a minute. It wasn't exactiy pleading, it was asking 
questions. The sky stayed hard looking and quiet so she went 
inside the house. God would do less than He had in His heart. 

Tea Cake was lying with his eyes closed and Janie hoped he 
was asleep. He wasn't. A great fear had took hold of him. What 
was this thing that set his brains afire and grabbed at his throat 
with iron fingers? Where did it come from and why did it hang 
around him? He hoped it would stop before Janie noticed any- 
thing. He wanted to try to drink water again but he didn't want 
her to see him fail. As soon as she got out of the kitchen he meant 
to go to the bucket and drink right quick before anything had 
time to stop him. No need to worry Janie, until he couldn't help 
it. He heard her cleaning out the stove and saw her go out back 
to empty the ashes. He leaped at the bucket at once. But this time 



Their Eyes Were Watching God 4r 179 

the sight of the: water was enough. He was on the kitchen floor in 
great agony when she returned. She petted him, soothed him, 
and. got him back to bed. She made up her mind to go see about 
that medicine from Palm Beach. Maybe she could find somebody 
to drive over there for it. 

"Fee! better now, Tea Cake, baby chile?" 

"Uh huh, uh little." 

"Well, b'lieve AMI rake up de front yard. De mens is got 
cane chewin\s and peanut hulls all over de place. Don't want de 
doctah tuh come back heah and find it still de same." 

"Don't take too long, Janie. Don't lak tuh be by mahself 
when Ah'm sick." 

She ran down the road just as fast as she could. Halfway to 
town she met Sop- de -Bottom and Dockery coming towards her. 

"Hello, Janie, how's Tea Cake?" 

"Pretty bad off. Ah'm gointuh see "bout medicine fuh Mm 
right now." 

"Doctor told somebody he wuz sick so us come tuh see. 
Thought somethin' he never come tuh work." 

"Fall set wid 'im rill Ah git back. He need de company right 
long in heah." 

She fanned on down the road to town and found Dr. Sim- 
mons. Yes, he had had an answer They didn't have any scrum but 
they had wired Miami to send it. She needn't worry. It would be 
there early the next morning if not before. People didn't fool 
around in a case like that. No, it wouldn't do for her to hire no 
car to go after it. Just go home and wait. That was all. When she 
reached home the visitors rose to go. 

When they were alone Tea Cake wanted to put his head in 
Janie's lap and tell her how he felt and let her mama him in her 
sweet way. But something Sop had told him made his tongue lie 
cold and heavy like a dead lizard between his jaws. Mrs. Turner's 



ISO Ifr Zora Neale Hurston 



brother was back on the muck and now he had this mysterious 
sickness. People didn't just take sick like this for nothing. 

" Janie, whut is dat Turner woman's brother doin' back on de 
muck>" 

"Ah don't know, Tea Cake. Didn't even knowed he wuz 
back." 

"Accordin* tuh mah notion, you did. Whut you slip off from 
me just now for?" 

"Tea Cake, Ah don't lak you astin' me no sich question. Dat 
shows how sick you is sho nuff. You'se jealous 'thout me givin' you 
cause/' 

"Well, whut didja slip off from de house 'thout tellin' me you 
wuz goin'. You ain't never done dat befo*." 

"Dat wuz cause Ah wuz tryin' not tuh let yuh worry 'bout 
yo' condition. De doctah sent after some mo' medicine and Ah 
went tuh see if it come." 

Tea Cake began to cry and Janie hovered him in her arms like 
a child. She sat on the side of the bed and sort of rocked him back 
to peace. 

"Tea Cake, 'tain't no use in you bein' jealous uh me. In de 
first place Ah couldn't love nobody but yuh. And in de second 
place, Ah jus' uh oie woman dat nobody don't want but you." 

"Naw, you ain't neither. You only sound ole when you tell 
folks when you wuz born, but wid de eye you'se young enough 
tuh suit most any man. Dat ain't no lie. Ah knows plenty mo' 
men would take yuh and work hard fuh de privilege. Ah done 
heard 'em talk" 

"Maybe so, Tea Cake, Ah ain't never tried tuh find out. Ah 
jus' know dat God snatched me out de fire through you. And Ah 
loves yuh and feel glad." 

"Thank yuh, ma'am, but don't say you'se ole. You'se uh lil 
girl baby all de time. God made it so you spent yo 5 ole age first 



Their Byes Were Waiching God *fr 181 

wid somebody else, and saved up yo' young girl days to spend 
wid me." 

"Ah feel dat uh way too, Tea Cake, and Ah thank yuh fuh 
sayin' it." 

"'Tain't no trouble tuh say whut's already so. You'se uh 
pretty woman outside uh bein' nice." 
"Aw, Tea Cake." 

"Yeah you is too. Everytime Ah see uh patch uh roses uh 
somethin' over spot tin' they selves makin' out they pretty, Ah tell 
^m. 'Ah want yuh tuh see mah Janie sometime.' You must let de 
flowers see yuh sometimes, heah, Janie?" 

"You keep dat up, Tea Cake, Ah'll b'Heve yuh after while," 
Janie said archly and fixed him back in bed. It was then she felt 
the pistol under the pillow. It gave her a quick ugly throb, but she 
didn't ask him about it since he didn't say. Never had Tea Cake 
slept with a pistol under his head before. "Neb' mind 'bout ail 
dat cleanin' round de front yard," he told her as she straightened 
up from fixing the bed. "You stay where Ah kin see yuh." 

"All right, Tea Cake, jus' as you say." 

"And if Mis' Turner's lap^legged brother come prowiin' by 
heah you kin tell 'im Ah got him stopped wid four wheel brakes. 
'Tain't no need of him standin' 'round watchin' de job." 

"Ah won't be tellin' 'im nothin* 'cause Ah don't expect tuh 
see 'im." 

Tea Cake had two bad attacks that night. Janie saw a chang- 
ing look come in his face. Tea Cake was gone. Something else 
was looking out of his face. She made up her mind to be off after 
the doctor with die first glow of day. So she was up and dressed 
when Tea Cake awoke from the fitful sleep that had come to him 
just before day. He almost snarled when he saw her dressed to go. 

"Where are you goin', Janie?" 

"After de doctor, Tea Cake. You'se too sick tuh be heah in dis 



182 Zrora Ncale Hurst on 



house 'thout de doctah. Maybe we oughta git yuh tuh de hospital. " 

"Ah ain't goin' tuh no hospital no where. Put dat in yo* pipe 
and smoke it Guess you tired uh waitin* on me and doing fuh 
me. Dat ain't de way Ah been wid you. Ah never is been able tuh 
do enough fuh yuh." 

"Tea Cake> you'se sick. You'sc takin* everything in de way Ah 
don't mean it* Ah couldn't never be tired uh waitin' on you. 
Ah'm just skeered you'se too sick fuh me tuh handle. Ah wants 
yuh tuh git well, honey. Dat's all." 

He gave her a look full of blank ferocity and gurgled in his 
throat. She saw him sitting up in bed and moving about so that 
he could watch her every move. And she was beginning to feel 
fear of this strange thing in Tea Cake's body. So when he went 
out to the outhouse she rushed to see if the pistol was loaded. It 
was a six shooter and three of the chambers were fall. She started 
to unload it but she feared he might break it and find out she 
knew. That might urge his disordered mind to action. If that 
medicine would only come! She whirled the cylinder so that if he 
even did draw the gun on her it would snap three times before it 
would fire. She would at least have warning. She could either run 
or try to take it away before it was too late. Anyway Tea Cake 
wouldn't hurt her. He was jealous and wanted to scare her. She'd 
just be in the kitchen as usual and never let on. They'd laugh over 
it when he got well. She found the box of cartridges, however, 
and emptied it. Just as well to take the rifle from back of the head 
of the bed. She broke it and put the shell in her apron pocket and 
put it in a corner in the kitchen almost behind the stove where it 
was hard to see. She could outrun his knife if it came to that. Of 
course she was too fussy, but it did no harm to play safe. She 
ought not to let poor sick Tea Cake do something that would run 
him crazy when he found out what he had done. 

She saw him coming from the outhouse with a queer loping 



Their Eyes Were Watching God *Sm 183 

gait, swinging his head from side to side and his jaws clenched in 
a funny way. This was too awful! Where was Dr. Simmons with 
that medicine? She was glad she was here to look after him. 
Folks would do such mean things to her Tea Cake if they saw 
him in such a fix. Treat Tea Cake like he was some mad dog 
when nobody in the world had more kindness about them. All 
he needed was for the doctor to come on with that medicine. 
He came back into the house without speakings in fact, he did 
not seem to notice she was there and fell heavily into the bed 
and slept. Janie was standing by the stove washing up the dishes 
when he spoke to her in a queer cold voice. 

"Janie, how come you can't sleep in dc same bed wid me 
no raoT 

"De doctah told you tuh sleep by yo'self, Tea Cake. Don't 
yuh remember him tellin' you dat yistiddy?" 

"How come you ruther sleep on uh pallet than tuh sleep in 
de bed wid mc^ Janie saw then that he had the gun in his hand 
that was hanging to his side. "Answer me when Ah speak. " 

"Tea Cake, Tea Cake, honey! Go lay down! Ah'll be too 
glad tuh be in dere wid yuh de minute de doctor say so. Go lay 
back down. He'll be he ah wid some new medicine right away" 

"Janie, Ah done went through everything tuh be good tuh 
you and it hurt me tuh mah heart tuh be ill treated lak Ah is." 

The gun came up unsteadily but quickly and leveled at 
Janie's breast. She noted that even in his delirium he took good 
aim. Maybe he would point to scare her, that was all. 

The pistol snapped once. Instinctively Janie *s hand flew 
behind her on the rifle and brought it around. Most likely this 
would scare him off. If only the doctor would come! If anybody 
at all would come! She broke the rifle deftly and shoved in the 
shell as the second click told her that Tea Cake's suffering brain 
was urging him on to kill. 



184 ^Br Zora Neale Hurston 



"Tea Cake, put down dat gun and go back tuh bedf" Janie 
yclJcd at him as the gun wavered weakly in his hand. 

He steadied himself against the jamb of the door and Janie 
thought to run into him and grab his arm, but she saw the quick 
motion of taking aim and heard the click. Saw the ferocious look 
in his eyes and went mad with fear as she had done in the water 
that time. She threw up the barrel of the rifle in frenzied hope 
and fear. Hope that heM see it and run, desperate fear for her life. 
But if Tea Cake could have counted costs he would not have been 
there with the pistol in his hands. No knowledge of fear nor rifles 
nor anything else was there. He paid no more attention to the 
pointing gun than if it were Janie's dog finger. She saw him 
stiffen himself all over as he leveled and took aim. The fiend in 
him must kill and Janie was the only thing living he saw. 

The pistol and the rifle rang out almost together. The pistol 
just enough after the rifle to seem its echo. Tea Cake crumpled as 
his bullet buried itself in the joist over Janie 's head. Janie saw the 
look on his face and leaped forward as he crashed forward in her 
arms. She was trying to hover him as he closed his teeth in the 
flesh of her forearm. They came down heavily like that. Janie 
struggled to a sitting position and pried the dead Tea Cake's 
teeth from her arm. 

It was the meanest moment of eternity. A minute before she 
was just a scared human being fighting for its life. Now she was 
her sacrificing self with Tea Cake's head in her lap. She had 
wanted him to live so much and he was dead. No hour is ever 
eternity, but it has its right to weep. Janie held his head tightly to 
her breast and wept and thanked him wordlessly for giving her 
the chance for loving service. She had to hug him tight for soon 
he would be gone, and she had to tell him for the last time. Then 
the grief of outer darkness descended. 

So that same day of Janie 's great sorrow she was in jail- And 



Their Eyes Were Watching God 1&5 

when the doctor told the sheriff and the judge how it was, they 
all said she must be tried that same day- No need to punish her in 
jail by waiting- Three hours in jail and then they set the court for 
her case- The time was short and everything, but sufficient peo- 
ple were there- Plenty of white people came to look on this 
strangeness. And all the Negroes for miles around- Who was it 
didn't know about the love between Tea Cake and Janie? 

The court set and Janie saw the judge who had put on a 
great robe to listen about her and Tea Cake, And twelve more 
white men had stopped whatever they were doing to listen and 
pass on what happened between Janie and Tea Cake Woods, and 
as to whether things were done right or not- That was fanny 
too- Twelve strange men who didn't know a thing about people 
like Tea Cake and her were going to sit on the thing- Eight or 
ten white women had come to look at her too- They wore good 
clothes and had the pinky color that comes of good food- They 
were nobody's poor white folks. What need had they to leave 
their richness to come look on Janie in her overalls? But they 
didn't seem too mad, Janie thought- It would be nice if she 
could make them know how it was instead of those men folks - 
Oh, and she hoped that undertaker was fixing Tea Cake up fine- 
They ought to let her go see about it- Yes, and there was Mr- 
Frescott that she knew right well and he was going to tell the 
twelve men to kill her for shooting Tea Cake, And a strange man 
from Palm Beach who was going to ask them not to kill her, and 
none of them knew 

Then she saw all of the colored people standing up in the 
back of the courtroom- Packed tight like a case of celery, only 
much darker than that- They were a)) against her, she could see, 
So many were there against her that a light slap from each one of 
them would have beat her to death. She felt them pelting her 
with dirty thoughts- They were there with their tongues cocked 



1S6 4p Zora Neale Hurston 



and loaded., the oniy real weapon left to weak folks. The only 
killing tool they are allowed to use in the presence of white folks. 

So it was all ready after a while and they wanted people to talk 
so that they could know what was right to do about Janie Woods, 
the relic of Tea Cake's Janie . The white part of the room got calmer 
the more serious it got, but a tongue storm struck the Negroes like 
wind among palm trees . They talked all of a sudden and all together 
like a choir and the top parts of their bodies moved on the rhythm 
of it. They sent word by the bailiff to Mr. Preseotr they wanted to 
testify in the case. Tea Cake was a good boy. He had been good to 
that woman. No nigger woman ain't never been treated no better 
Naw suh! He worked like a dog for her and nearly killed himself sav- 
ing her tn the storm, then soon as he got a little fever from the 
water, she had took up with another man. Sent for him to come 
there from way off. Hanging was too good. All they wanted was a 
chance to testify. The bailiff went up and the sheriff and the judge, 
and the police chief, and the lawyers all came together to listen for a 
few minutes, then they parted again and the sheriff took the stand 
and told how Janie had come to his house with the doctor and how 
he found things when he drove out to hers. 

Then they called Dr. Simmons and he told about Tea Cake's 
sickness and how dangerous it was to Janie and the whole town, 
and how he was scared for her and thought to have Tea Cake 
locked up in the jail, but seeing Janie's care he neglected to do it. 
And how he found Janie ail bit in the arm, sitting on the floor and 
petting Tea Cake's head when he got there. And the pistol right 
by his hand on the floor. Then he stepped down. 

"Any farther evidence to present, Mr. Prescott?" the judge 
asked. 

"No, Your Honor. The State rests." 

The palm tree dance began again among the Negroes in the 
back. They had come to talk. The State couldn't rest until it heard. 



Thck Eyes Were Watching God 187 



"Mistah Prescott, Ah got somethirT tuh say " Sop-de-Bottom 
spoke out anonymously from the anonymous herd. 

The courtroom swung round on itself to look. 

"If you know what's good for you, you better shut your 
mouth up until somebody calls you," Mr. Prescott told him 
coldly, 

"Yassuh, Mr, Prescott. 7 * 

"We are handling this case. Another word out of you > out of any 
of you niggers back there,, and Pll bind you over to the big court.** 
"Yassuh," 

The white women made a little applause and Mr, Prescott 
glared at the back of the house and stepped down. Then the 
strange white man that was going to talk for her got up there. He 
whispered a little with the clerk and then called on Janie to take 
the stand and talk. After a few little questions he told her to tell 
just how it happened and to speak the truths the whole truth and 
nothing but the truth. So help her God, 

They all leaned over to listen while she talked. First thing she 
had to remember was she was not at home. She was in the court- 
house fighting something and it wasn't death. It was worse than 
that. It was lying thoughts. She had to go way back to let them 
know how she and Tea Cake had been with one another so they 
could see she could never shoot Tea Cake out of malice. 

She tried to make them see how terrible it was that things 
were fixed so that Tea Cake couldn't come back to himself until 
he had got rid of that mad dog that was in him and he couldn't 
get rid of the dog and live. He had to die to get rid of the dog. 
But she hadn't wanted to kill him, A man is up against a hard 
game when he must die to beat it. She made them see how she 
couldn't ever want to be rid of him. She didn't plead to anybody. 
She just sat there and told and when she was through she hushed. 
She had been through for some time before the judge and the 



ISS Zora Neale Hurston 



lawyer and the rest seemed to know it. But she sat on in that trial 
chair until the lawyer told her she could come down. 

'The defense rests," her lawyer said. Then he and Prcscott 
whispered together and both of them talked to the judge in 
secret up high there where he sat. Then they both sat down. 

"Gentlemen of the jury, it is for you to decide whether the 
defendant has committed a cold blooded murder or whether she 
is a poor broken creature, a devoted wife trapped by unfortunate 
circumstances who really in firing a rifle bullet into the heart of 
her iate husband did a great act of mercy, If you find her a wan- 
ton killer you must bring in a verdict of first degree murder. If the 
evidence does not justify that then you must set her free. There is 
no middle course. w 

The jury filed out and the courtroom began to drone with 
talk, a few people got up and moved about. And Janie sat like a 
lump and waited. It was not death she feared, It was misunder- 
standing. If they made a verdict that she didn't want Tea Cake and 
wanted him dead, then that was a real sin and a shame. It was 
worse than murder. Then the jury was back again. Out five min- 
utes by the courthouse clock. 

"We find the death of Vergible Woods to be entirely acciden- 
tal and justifiable, and that no blame should rest upon the defen- 
dant Janie Woods," 

So she was free and the judge and everybody up there smiled 
with her and shook her hand. And the white women cried and 
stood around her like a protecting wall and the Negroes, with 
heads hung down, shuffled out and away. The sun was almost 
down and Janie had seen the sun rise on her troubled love and 
then she had shot Tea Cake and had been in jail and had been 
tried for her life and now she was free. Nothing to do with the lit- 
tle that was left of the day bu t to visit the kind white friends who 
had realized her feelings and thank them. So the sun went down. 



Their Eyes Were Warching God 4? 189 

She took a room at the boarding house for the night and 
heard the men talking around the front 

"Aw yon know dem white mens wuzn't gointuh do nothin > 
tuh no woman dat look lak her " 

"She didn't kill no white man, did she? Weil, long as she don't 
shoot no white man she kin kill jus' as many niggers as she please." 

"Yeah, de nigger women kin kill up all de mens dey wants 
tuh, hut you bet' not kill one uh dem. De white folks will sho 
hang yuh if yuh do." 

"Weil, you know whut dey say 'uh white man and uh nigger 
woman is de freest thing on earth.' Dey do as dey please." 

Janie buried Tea Cake in Palm Beach. She knew he loved the 
'Glades but it was too low for him to Me with water maybe washing 
over him with every heavy rain. Anyway, the 'Glades and its waters 
had killed him. She wanted him out of the way of storms, so she had 
a strong vault built in the cemetery at West Palm Beach. Janie had 
wired to Orlando for money to put him away. Tea Cake was the son 
of Evening Sun, and nothing was too good. The Undertaker did a 
handsome job and Tea Cake slept royally on his white silken couch 
among the roses she had bought. He looked almost ready to grin. 
Janie bought him a brand new guitar and put it in his hands. He 
would be tiiinking up new songs to play to her when she got there. 

Sop and his friends had tried to hurt her but she knew it was 
because they loved Tea Cake and didn't understand. So she sent 
Sop word and to all the others through him. So the day of the 
funeral they came with shame and apology in their faces. They 
wanted her quick forgetfiilness. So they filled up and overflowed the 
ten sedans that Janie had hired and added others to the line. Then 
the band played, and Tea Cake rode like a Pharaoh to his tomb. No 
expensive veils and robes for Janie this time. She went on in her 
overalls. She was too busy feeling grief to dress like grief 



20 




Because they really loved Janie just a little less than they had loved 
Tea Cake, and because they wanted to think well of themselves, 
they wanted their hostile attitude forgotten. So they blamed it all 
on Mrs. Turner's brother and ran him off the muck again. They'd 
show him about coming back there posing like he was good look- 
ing and putting himself where men's wives could look at him. 
Even if they didn't look it wasn't his fault, he had put himself in 
the way. 

"Naw, Ah ain't mad wid Janie," Sop went around explaining. 
"Tea Cake had done gone crazy. You can't blame her for puh- 
tecthV herself. She wuz crazy 'bout 'im. Look at de way she put 
him away. Ah ain't got anything in mah heart aginst her. And Ah 
never woulda thought uh thing, but de very first day dat lap- 
legged nigger come back heah makin' out he wuz lookin* fuh 
work, he come astin' me 'bout how wuz Mr. and Mrs. Woods 
makin' out. Dat goes tuh show yah he wuz up tuh something 

"So when Stew Beef and Bootyny and some of de rest of 'em 
got behind 'im he come runnin' tuh me tuh save 'im. Ah told 'im, 
don't come tuh me wid yo' hair blowin' back, 'cause, Ah'm goin- 
tuh send yuh, and Ah sho did. De bitches' baby!" That was 
enough, they eased their feelings by beating him and running him 



Their Eyes Were Watching God 4t 191 

off. Anyway, their anger against Janie had lasted two whole days 
and that was too long to keep remembering anything. Too much 

of a strain. 

They had begged Janie to stay on with them and she had 
stayed a few weeks to keep them from feeling bad. But the muck 
meant Tea Cake and Tea Cake wasn^t there. So it was just a great 
expanse of black mud. She had given away everything in their lit- 
tle house except a package of garden seed that Tea Cake had 
bought to plant. The planting never got done because he had 
been waiting for the right time of the moon when his sickness 
overtook him. The seeds reminded Janie of lea Cake more than 
anything else because he was always planting things. She had 
noticed them on the kitchen shelf when she came home from the 
funeral and had put them in her breast pocket. Now that she was 
home, she meant to plant them for remembrance. 

Janie stirred her strong feet in the pan of water. The tiredness 
was gone so she dried them off on the towel. 

"Now, dat's how everything wuz, Pheoby, jus' lak Ah told 
yuh. So Ah'm back home agin and Ah'm satisfied tuh be heah. 
Ah done been tuh de horizon and back and now Ah kin set heah 
in mah house and live by comparisons. Dis house ain't so absent 
of things lak it used tuh be befo' Tea Cake come along. It's full 
uh thoughts, 'specially dat bedroom. 

"Ah know all dem sittm-and-talkers gointuh worry they guts 
into fiddle strings till dey find out whut we been talkin* 'bout. Dat*s 
all right, Pheoby, tell 'em. Dey gointuh make 'miration 'cause mah 
love dldn\ work lak they love, if dey ever had any. Then you must 
tell 'em dat love ain't somethin' lak uh grindstone dat's de same 
thing everywhere and do de same thing tuh everything it touch. 
Love is lak de sea. It's uh movin' thing, but still and all, it takes its 
shape from de shore it meets, and it's different with every shore." 



192 Zora Ncak Humon 



"Lawd! # Pheoby breathed out heavily, "Ah done growed ten 
feet higher from jus' listenin' tuh you, Janie. Ah ain't satisfied 
wid mahself no mo\ Ah means tuh make Sam take me fishin' wid 
him after this. Nobody better not criticize yuh in mall hearin'." 

"Now, Pheoby, don't feci too mean wid de rest of 'em 'cause 
dey's parched up from not knowin' things. Dem meatskins is$ot 
tuh rattle tuh make out they's alive. Let 'em consoiate theyselves 
wid talk. 'Course, talkin' don't amount tuh uh hill uh beans 
when yuh can't do nothin' else. And listenin' tuh dat kind uh talk 
is jus' lak openin' yo' mouth and lettin' de moon shine down yo' 
throat. It's uh known fact, Pheoby, you got tuh^ there tuh know 
there. Yo' papa and yo' mama and nobody else can't tell yuh and 
show yuh. Two things everybody's got tuh do fuh theyselves. 
They got tuh go tuh God, and they got tub find out about livin' 
fuh theyselves." 

There was a finished silence after that so that for the first time 
they could hear the wind picking at the pine trees. It made 
Pheoby think of Sam waiting for her and getting fretful. It made 
Janie think about that room upstairs— her bedroom. Pheoby 
hugged janie real hard and cut the darkness in flight. 

Soon everything around downstairs was shut and fastened. 
Janie mounted the stairs with her lamp. The light in her hand was 
like a spark of sun-stuff washing her face in fire. Her shadow 
behind fell black and headlong down the stairs. Now, in her 
room, the place tasted fresh again. The wind through the open 
windows had broomed out all the fetid feeling of absence and 
nothingness. She closed in and sat down. Combing road-dust 
out of her hair. Thinking. 

The day of the gun, and the bloody body, and the court- 
house came and commenced to sing a sobbing sigh out of every 
corner in the room; out of each and every chair and thing. Com- 
menced to sing, commenced to sob and sigh, singing and sob- 



X 

Their Eyes Were Watching God 4^ 193 



bing. Then Tea Cake came prancing around her where she was 
and the song of the sigh flew out of the window and lit in the top 
of the pine trees. Tea Cake, with the sun for a shawl. Of course he 
wasn't dead. He could never be dead until she herself had fin- 
ished feeling and thinking. The kiss of his memory made pictures 
of love and light against the wall. Here was peace. She pulled in 
her horizon like a great fish-net. Pulled it from around the waist 
of the world and draped it over her shoulder. So much of life in 
its meshes! She called in her soul to come and see. 



Afterword 




Zora Ncale Hurston: 
l A Negro Way of Saying" 



L 

The Reverend Harry Middleton Hyatt, an Episcopal priest whose 
five-volume classic collection, Hoodoo, Conjuration* Witchcraft, 
and Rootwork, more than amply returned an investment of forty 
years' research, once asked me during an interview in 1977 what 
had become of another eccentric collector whom he admired. "I 
met her in the field in the thirties. I think/' he reflected for a few 
seconds, u that her first name was Zora. " It was an innocent ques- 
tion, made reasonable by the body of confiiscd and often contra- 
dictory rumors that make Zora Nealc Hurston 's own legend as 
richly curious and as dense as are the black myths she did so much 
to preserve in her classic anthropological works, Mules and Men 
and Tell My Horse, and in her fiction. 

A graduate of Barnard, where she studied under Franz Boas, 
Zora Neale Hurston published seven books — four novels, two 
books of folklore, and an autobiography — and more than fifty 
shorter works between the middle of the Harlem Renaissance and 



196 4k* Afterword 



the end of the Korean War, when she was the dominant black 
woman writer in the United States. The dark obscurity into which 
her career then lapsed reflects her staunchly independent political 
stances rather than any deficiency of craft or vision. Virtually 
ignored after the eaiiy fifties, even by the Black Arts movement in 
the sixties, an otherwise noisy and intense spell of black image- and 
myth-making that rescued so many black writers from remain- 
dered oblivion, Hurston embodied a more or less harmonious but 
nevertheless problematic unity of opposites. It is this complexity 
that refuses to lend itself to the glib categories of "radical" or "con- 
servative," "black" or "Negro," "revolutionary" or "Uncle 
Tom" — categories of little use in literary criticism. It is this same 
complexity, embodied in her fiction, that, until Alice Walker pub- 
lished her important essay ("In Search of Zora Neale Hurston") in 
Afr. magazine in 1975, had made Hurston's place in black literary 
history an ambiguous one at best. 

The rediscovery of Afro-American writers has usually turned 
on larger political criteria, of which the writer's work is suppos- 
edly a mere reflection. The deeply satisfying aspect of the redis- 
covery of Zora Neale Hurston is that black women generated it 
primarily to establish a maternal literary ancestry. Alice Walker's 
moving essay recounts her attempts to find Hurston's unmarked 
grave in the Garden of the Heavenly Rest, a segregated cemetery 
in Fort Pierce, Florida. Hurston became a metaphor for the black 
woman writer's search for tradition. The craft of Alice Wafer, 
Gayi Jones, Gloria Naylor, and Toni Cade Bambara bears, in 
markedly different ways, strong affinities with Hurston's. Their 
attention to Hurston signifies a novel sophistication in black lit- 
erature: they read Hurston not only for the spiritual kinship 
inherent in such relations but because she used black vernacular 
speech and rituals, in ways subtle and various, to chart the com- 
ing to consciousness of black women, so glaringly absent in other 



Afterword 197 



black fiction. This use of the vernacular became the fundamental 
framework for all but one of her novels and is particularly effec- 
tive in her classic work Their Eyes Were Watching God > published 
in 1937, which is more closely related to Henry James's The Por- 
trait of a Lady and Jean Toomer's Cane than to Langston 
Hughes's and Richard Wright's proletarian literature, so popular 
in the Depression. 

The charting of Janie Crawford's fulfillment as an autonomous 
imagination, Their Eyesis a lyrical novel that correlates the need of 
her first two husbands for ownership of progressively larger physical 
space (and the gaudy accoutrements of upward mobility) with the 
suppression of self-awareness in their wife. Only with her third and 
last lover, a roustabout called Tea Cake whose unstructured frolics 
center around and about the Florida swamps, does Janie at last 
bloom, as does the large pear tree that stands beside her grand- 
mother's tiny log cabin. 

She saw a dust bearing bee sink into the sanctum of a bloom; 
the thousand sister calyxes arch to meet the !ove embrace and 
the ecstatic shiver of the tree from root to tiniest branch cream- 
ing in every blossom and frothing with delight. So this was a 
marriage! 

To plot Janie's journey from object to subject, the narrative of 
the novel shifts from third to a blend of first and third person 
(known as "free indirect discourse"), signifying this awareness of 
self in Janie. Their Eyes is a bold feminist novel, the first to be 
explicitly so in the Afro- American tradition. Yet in its concern with 
the project of finding a voice > with language as an instrument of 
injury and salvation, of selfhood and empowerment, it suggests 
many of the themes that inspirit Hurston's oeuvre as a whole. 



19S 4Rr Afterword 



One of the most moving passages in American literature is Zora 
Neale Hurston*s account of her fast encounter with her dying 
mother, found in a chapter entided "Wandering" in her autobi- 
ography. Dust Tracks on a Road (1942): 



As I crowded in, they lilted up the bed and turned it around so 
that Mama's eyes would face east. I thought that she looked to 
me as the head of the bed reversed. Her mouth was slighdy 
open > but her breathing took up so much of her strength that 
she could not talk. But she looked at mc> or so I felt, to speak 
for her. She depended on me tor a voice. 



We can begin to understand the rhetorical distance that sepa- 
rated Hurston from her contemporaries if we compare this passage 
with a similar scene published just three years later in Black Boy by 
Richard Wrigh^ Hurston 1 s dominant black male contemporary and 
rival: "Once, in the night, my mother called me to her bed and told 
me that she could not endure the pain, and she wanted to die. I held 
her hand and begged her to be quiet. That night I ceased to react to 
my mother; my feelings were frozen." If Hurston represents her 
final moments with her mother in terms of the search for voice, then 
Wright attributes to a similar experience a certain "somberness of 
spirit that I was never to lose," which "grew into a symbol in my 
mind, gathering to itself. . . the poverty, the ignorance, the helpless- 
ness. . . Few authors in die black tradition have less in common 
than Zora Neale Hurston and Richard Wright. And whereas Wright 
would reign through the forties as our predominant author, 
Hurston's feme reached its zenith in 1943 with a Saturday Review 
cover story honoring the success of Dust Tracks, Seven years later, she 
would be serving as a maid in Rivo Alto, Florida; ten years after that 
she would die in the County Welfare Home in Fort Pierce^ Florida. 



Afterword 199 



How could the recipient of two Guggenheim* and the 
author of four novels, a dozen short stories, two musicals, two 
books on black mythology, dozens of essays, and a prizewinning 
autobiography virtually "disappear" from her readership for 
tiiree foil decades? There are no easy answers to this quandary, 
despite the concerted attempts of scholars to resolve it. It is 
clear, however, that the loving, diverse, and enthusiastic 
responses that Hurston *s work engenders today were not shared 
by several of her influential black male contemporaries. The rea- 
sons for this are complex and stem largely from what we might 
think of as their "racial ideologies," 

Part of Hurston's received heritage— and perhaps the para- 
mount received notion that links the novel of manners in the 
Harlem Renaissance, the social realism of the thirties, and the 
cultural nationalism of the Black Arts movement— was the idea 
that racism had reduced black people to mere ciphers, to beings 
who only react to an omnipresent racial oppression, whose cul- 
ture is "deprived" where different, and whose psyches are in the 
main "pathological. 1 * Albert Murray, the writer and social critic, 
calls this "the Social Science Fiction Monster." Socialists, sepa- 
ratists, and civil rights advocates alike have been devoured by 
this beast. 

Hurston thought this idea degrading, its propagation a trap, 
and railed against it* It was, she said, upheld by "the sobbing 
school of Negrohood who hold that nature somehow has given 
them a dirty deal." Unlike Hughes and Wright, Hurston chose 
deliberately to ignore this "false picture that distorted " Free- 
dom, she wrote in Moses, Man of the Mountain, "was something 

internal The man himself must make his own emancipation." 

And she declared her first novel a manifesto against the "arro- 
gance" of whites assuming that "black lives are only defensive reac- 
tions to white actions." Her strategy was not calculated to please. 



200 JSP Afterword 



What wc might think of as Hurston's mythic realism, lush 
and dense within a lyrical black idiom, seemed politically retro- 
grade to the proponents of a social or critical realism. If Wright, 
Ellison^ Brown, and Hurston were engaged in a battle over ideal 
fictional modes with which to represent the Negro, clearly 
Hurston lost the battle. 

But not the wan 

After Hurston and her choice of style for the black novel were 
silenced for nearly three decades, what we have witnessed since is 
clearly a marvelous instance of the return of the repressed. For Zora 
Neale Hurston has been "rediscovered" in a manner unprece- 
dented in the black tradition: several black women writers, among 
whom are some of the most accomplished writers in America today, 
have openly turned to her works as sources of narrative strategies, to 
be repeated, imitated, and revised, in acts of textual bonding. 
Responding to Wright's critique, Hurston claimed that she had 
wanted at long last to write a black novel, and *not a treatise on 
sociology," It is this urge that resonates in Toni Morrison's Sonj$ of 
Solomon and Beloved, and in Walker's depiction of Hurston as our 
prime symbol of "raciai health — a sense of black people as complete, 
complex, undiminished human beings, a sense that is lacking in so 
much black writing and literature." In a tradition in which male 
authors have ardently denied black literary paternity, this is a major 
development, one that heralds the refinement of our notion of tra- 
dition: Zora and her daughters are a tradition -within-the-tradition, 
a black woman's voice. 

The resurgence of popular and academic readerships of Hur- 
ston's works signifies her multiple canonization in the black, the 
American, and the feminist traditions. Within the critical establish- 
ment, scholars of every stripe have found in Hurston texts for all sea- 
sons. More people have read Hurston's works since 1975 than did 
between that date and the publication of her first novel, in 1934, 



Afterword 201 

Rereading Hurston, I am always struck by the density of intimate 
experiences she cloaked in richly elaborated imagery It is this con- 
cern for the figurative capacity of black language, for what a char- 
acter in Mules and Men calls "a hidden meaning, jus' like de Bible 
,.,de inside mean in' of words/' that unites Hurston's anthropo- 
logical studies with her fiction. For the folklore Hurston collected 
so meticulously as Franz Boasts student at Barnard became 
metaphors, allegories, and performances in her novels, the tradi- 
tional recurring canonical metaphors of black culture. Always 
more of a novelist than a social scientist, even Hurston*s academic 
collections center on the quality of imagination that makes these 
lives whole and splendid. But it is in the novel that Hurston's use 
of the black idiom realizes its fullest effect. In Jonah*s Gourd Vim y 
her first novel, for instance, the errant preacher, John, as described 
by Robert Hemenway "is a poet who graces his world with lan- 
guage but cannot find the words to secure his own personal 
grace." This concern for language and for the "natural" poets who 
"bring barbaric splendor of word and song into the very camp of 
the mockers" not only connects her two disciplines but also makes 
of "the suspended linguistic moment" a thing to behold indeed. 
Invariably, Hurston's writing depends for its strength on the text, 
not the context, as does John's climactic sermon, a tour de force of 
black image and metaphor. Image and metaphor define John's 
world; his failure to interpret himself leads finally to his self- 
destruction. As Robert Hemenway, Hurston*s biographer, con- 
cludes, "Such passages eventually add up to a theory of language 
and behavior." 

Using "the spy-glass of Anthropology," her work celebrates 
rather than moralizes^ it shows rather than tells, such that "both 
behavior and art become self-evident as the tale texts and 



202 Afterword 

hoodoo rituals accrete during the reading." As author* she func- 
tions as *a midwife participating in the birth of a body of folk- 
lore, , , , the first wondering contacts with natural law," The 
myths she describes so accurately are in fact "alternative modes 
for perceiving reality," and never just condescending depictions 
of the quaint, Hurston sees "the Dozens," for example, that 
age-old black ritual of graceful insult, as* among other things, a 
verbal defense of the sanctity of the family, conjured through 
ingenious plays on words. Though attacked by Wright and vir- 
tually ignored by his literary heirs, Hurston *s ideas about lan- 
guage and craft undergird many of the most successful contribu- 
tions to Afro-American literature that followed, 

IV. 

We can understand Hurston*s complex and contradictory legacy 
more fully if we examine Dust Tracks on a Road, her own ton- 
troversial account of her life, Hurston did make significant parts 
of herself up, like a masqueradcr putting on a disguise for the 
ball, like a character in her fictions. In this way, Hurston wrote 
herself, and sought in her works to rewrite the "self " of "the 
race*" in its several private and public guises > largely for ideolog- 
ical reasons. That which she chooses to reveal is the life of her 
imagination, as it sought to mold and interpret her environ- 
ment. That which she silences or deletes, similarly, is all that her 
readership would draw upon to delimit or pigeonhole her life as 
a synecdoche of "the race problem,* an exceptional part stand- 
ing for the debased whole. 

Hurston's achievement in Dust Tracks \$ twofold. First, she 
gives us a writer's life, rather than an account, as she says, of 
"the Negro problem," So many events in this text are figured in 
terms of Hurston's growing awareness and mastery of books 



Afterword 203 



and language, language and linguistic rituals as spoken and writ- 
ten both by masters of the Western tradition and by ordinary 
members of the black community. These two "speech commu- 
nities," as it were, arc Hurston's great sources of inspiration not 
only in her novels but also in her autobiography 

The representation of her sources of language seems to be her 
principal concern, as she constantly shifts back and forth between 
her "literate" narrator's voice and a highly idiomatic black voice 
found in wonderful passages of free indirect discourse. Hurston 
moves in and out of these distinct voices effortlessly, seamlessly, 
just as she does in Their Eyes to chart Janie's coming to conscious- 
ness. It is this usage of a divided voice, a double voice unrecon- 
ciled, that strikes mc as her great achievement, a verbal analogue of 
her double experiences as a woman in a male-dominated world 
and as a black person in a nonbiack worid > a woman writer's revi- 
sion of W. E. B. Du Bois's metaphor of Monbic-consciousness* 
for the hyphenated African-American. 

Her language, variegated by the twin voices that intertwine 
throughout the text, retains the power to unsettle. 

There is something about poverty that smells like death. Dead 
dreams dropping off the heart like leaves in a dry season and rot- 
ting around the feet; impulses smothered too long in the fetid 
air of underground caves. The soul lives in a sickly air. People can 
be slave-sMps in shoes. 

Elsewhere she analyzes black "idioms" used by a culture 
"raised on simile and invective. They know how to call names," 
she concludes, then lists some, such as 'gator-mouthed, box- 
ankied, puzzle- gutted, shovei-footcd: "Eyes looking like skint- 
ginny nuts, and mouth looking like a dishpan full of broke-up 
crockery! * 



204 Afterword 



Immediately following the passage about her mother's 
death, she writes: 

The Master- Maker m His making had made Old Death. Made 
him with big, soft feet and .square toes. Made him with a face 
that reflects the face of all things, but neither changes itself, 
nor is mirrored anywhere. Made the body of death out of infi- 
nite hunger. Made a weapon of his hand to satisfy his needs. 
This was the morning of the day of the beginning of things. 



Language, in these passages, is not merely ^adornment," as 
Hurston described a key black linguistic practice; rather, manner 
and meaning are perfectly in tune: she says the thing in the most 
meaningful manner. Nor is she being "cute, n or pandering to a 
condescending white readership. She is "naming* emotions, as she 
says, in a language both deeply personal and culturally specific. 

The second reason that Dust Tracks succeeds as literature 
arises from the first: Hurston's unresolved tension between her 
double voices signifies her full understanding of modernism. 
Hurston uses the two voices in her text to celebrate the psycho- 
logical fragmentation both of modernity and of the black Ameri- 
can. As Barbara Johnson has written, hers is a rhetoric of division, 
rather than a fiction of psychological or cultural unity. Zora 
Neale Hurston, the "real" Zora Neale Hurston that we long to 
locate in this text, dwells in the silence that separates these two 
voices: she is both, and neither; bilingual, and mute. This strat- 
egy helps to explain her attraction to so many contemporary crit- 
ics and writers, who can turn to her works again and again only 
to be startled at her remarkable artistry. 

But the life that Hurston could write was not the life she could 
live. In fact, Hurston's life, so much more readily than docs the stan- 
dard sociological rendering, reveals how economic Urnks determine 



Afterword 205 



our choices even more than docs violence or love. Put simply, 
Hurston wrote well when she was comfortable, wrote poorly when 
she was not. Financial problems— book sales, grants and fellowships 
too few and too paltry, ignorant editors and a smothering patron— 
produced the sort of dependence that affects, if not determines, her 
style, a relation she explored somewhat ironically in "What White 
Publishers Won't Print. * We cannot oversimplify the relation 
between Hurston 's art and her life; nor can we reduce the complex- 
ity of her postwar politics, which, rooted in her distaste for the patho- 
logical image of blacks, were markedly conservative and Republican. 

Nor can we sentimentalize her disastrous final decade, when 
she found herself working as a maid on the very day the Saturday 
Evening Post published her short story "Conscience of the Court" 
and often found herself without money, surviving after 1957 on 
unemployment benefits, substitute teaching, and welfare checks. 
"In her last days," Hemenway concludes dispassionately, "Zora 
lived a difficult life— alone, proud, ill, obsessed with a book she 
could not finish," 

The excavation of her buried life helped a new generation read 
Hurston again. But ultimately we must find Hurston's legacy in 
her art, where she "ploughed up some literacy and laid by some 
alphabets." Her importance rests with the legacy of fiction and 
lore she constructed so carmiiy As Hurston herself noted, £s Rol! 
your eyes in ecstasy and ape his every move, but until we have 
placed something upon his street corner that is our own, we are 
right back where we were when they filed our iron collar off?' If, 
as a friend eulogized, "She didn't come to you empty," then she 
does not leave black literature empty. If her earlier obscurity and 
neglect today seem inconceivable, perhaps now, as she wrote of 
Moses, she has "crossed oven" 



Henry Louis Gates, Jr. 



Selected Bibliography 




Works by Zora Neale Hurston 

Jonah's Gourd Vine. Philadelphia: J. B. Upptncott, 1934. 
Mules and Men. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1935. 
Their Eyes Were Watching God. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippiocott, 
1937. 

Tell My Horse. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1938. 

Moses y Man of the Mountain. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1939. 

Dust Tracks on a Road. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1942. 

Seraph on the Suwanee. New York: Charles Scrihner^s Sons, 1948. 

I Love Myself When I Am Laughing . . . &Then Again When 1 Am 
looking Mean and Impressive: A Zora Neale Hurston Reader 
Edited by Alice Waiker. Old Westbury, N.Y.: The Feminist 
Press, 1979. 

The Sanctified Church. Edited by Tool. Cade Bambara. Berkeley: 

Turtle Island, 1981. 
Spunk; The Selected Short Stories of Zora Neale Hurston. Berkeley: 

Turtle Island, 1985. 



208 4ftr Selected Bibliography 



Works About Zora Nealb Hurston 

Baker, Houston A,, Jr, Blues > Ideology, and Afro-American Litera- 
ture: A Vernacular Theory pp. 15-63, Chicago: University of 
Chicago Press, 1984, 

Bloom, Harold, ed, Zora Neale Hurston. New York: Chelsea 
House, 1986. 

— , ed, Zora Neale Hurston^s ^Their Eyes Were Watching God** 
New York: Chelsea House, 1987, 

Byrd, James W, "Zora Neale Hurston; A Novel Folklorist Ten- 
nessee Folk fare Society Bulletin 21 (1955): 37-41, 

Cooke, Michael G, "Solitude: The Beginnings of Self "Realization 
in Zora Neale Hurston, Richard Wright, and Ralph Ellison," 
In Michael G, Cooke, Afro-American Literature in the Twen- 
tieth Century^ pp. 7.1-1 10. New Haven: Yale University Press., 
1984. 

Dance, Daryl C, "Zora Neale Hurston." In American Women 

Writers: Bibliographical Essays, edited by Maurice Duke, et ah 

Westport, Conn,: Greenwood Press, 1983, 
Gates, Henry Louis, Jr. "The Speakeriy Text," In Henry Louis 

Gates, Jr., The Signifying Monkey, pp. 170-217. New York: 

Oxford University Press, 1988, 
Giies, James K "The Significance of Time in Zora Neale 

Hurston' s Their Eyes Were Watching God. v Negro American 

Literature Forum 6 (Summer 1972): 52-53, 60, 
Hemenway, Robert E, Zora Neale Hurston: A Literary Biography 

Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1977, 
Holloway, Karla, The Character of the Word: The Texts of Zora 

Neale Hurston. Westport, Conn,: Greenwood Press, 1987, 
Holt, Elvin, "Zora Neale Hurston," In Fifty Southern Writers 

After 19G0> edited by Joseph M. Flura and Robert Bain, pp. 

259-69, Westport, Conn,: Greenwood Press, 1987, 



Selected Bibliography ^ft 209 



Howard, Liiiie Pearl. Zora Neale Hurston. Boston; Twayne, 1980. 
— . "Zora Ncale Hurston." In Dictionary of Literary Biography, 

vol. 51, edited by Trudier Harris, pp. 133-45. Detroit: Gale, 

1987. 

Jackson, Biyden. "Some Negroes in the Land of Goshen." Ten- 
nessee Folklore Society Bulletin 19 (4) (December 1953): 
103-7. 

Johnson, Barbara. "Metaphor, Metonymy, and Voice in Their 
Eyes? In Black Literature and Literary Theory, edited by 
Henry Louis Gates, Jr., pp. 205-21. New York: Methuen, 
1984. 

— . "Thresholds of Difference: Structures of Address in Zora 
Ncale Hurston." In "Race* Writing and Difference, edited by 
Henry Lewis Gates, Jr. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 
1986. 

Jordan, June. "On Richard Wright and Zora Nealc Hurston." 
Black Worldly (10) (August 1974): 4^8. 

Knbitschck, Missy Dehn. * Tuh de Horizon and Back': The 
Female Quest in Their Eyes** Black American Literature 
Forum 17 (3) (Fall 1983): J09-15. 

lionnet, Francoise. "Autoethnography: The Anarchic Style of 
Dust Tracks on a Road? In Francoise Lionnet, Autobiograph- 
ical Voices: Race, Gender, Self-Portraiture, pp. 97-1 30. Ithaca: 
Cornel] University Press, 1989. 

Lupton, Mary Jane, "Zora Neale Hurston and the Survival of the 
Female." Southern Literary Journal 15 (Fall 1982): 45-54. 

Meese, Elizabeth. "Orality and Textuaiity in Zora Neale Hurston's 
IheirEyes" In Elizabeth Meese, Crossing the Double Cross: The 
Practice of Feminist Criticism, pp. 39-55. Chapel Hill: Uni- 
versity of North Carolina Press, 1986. 

Newson, Adetc S. Zora Neale Hurston: A Reference Guide. 
Boston: G. K. Hall, 1987. 



210 tfp Selected Bibliography 



Rayson, Ann. * Dust Tracks on a Road: Zora Neale Hurston and 
the Form of Black Autobiography." Negro American Litera- 
ture Forum 7 (Summer 1973); 42-44. 

Sheffey, Rnthe T., ed. A Rainbow Round Her Shoulder: The Zora 
Neale Hurston Symposium Papers. Baltimore; Morgan State 
University Press, 1982. 

Smith, Barbara. "Sexual Politics and the Fiction of Zora Neale 
Hurston." Radical TeacherH (May 1978): 26-30. 

Stcpto, Robert B. From Behind the Veil Urbana: University of Illi- 
nois Press, 1979. 

Walker, Alice. "In Search of Zora Neale Hurston." Ms. y March 
1975, pp. 74-79, 85-89. 

Wall, Cheryl A. "Zora Neale Hurston-. Changing Her Own 
Words." In American Novelists Revisited: Essays in Feminist 
GriUcistfiy edited by Fritz Fleisclimann, pp. 370-93. Boston: 
G.ICHali, 1982. 

Washington, Mary Helen. "Zora Neale Hurston: A Woman Half 
in Shadow." Introduction to I Lave Myself When I Am La m h- 
in$ y edited by Alice Walker. Old Westbury, N.Y.: Feminist 
Press, 1979. 

— . " *1 Love the Way Janie Crawford Left Her Husbands': Zora 
Neale Hurston's Emergent Female Hero." In Mary Helen 
Washington, Invented Lives: Narratives of Black Women, 
1860-1960. New York: Anchor Press, 1987. 

Willis, Miriam. "Folklore and the Creative Artist: Lydia Cabrera 
and Zora Neale Hurston " CIA Journal 27 (September 
1983): 81-90. 

Wolff, Maria Tai. "Listening and Living: Reading and Experience 
in Their Eyes." BALP16 (I) (Spring 1982): 29-33. 



Chronology 



January 7, 1891 Bom in Eatonville, Florida, the fifth of eight 
children, to John Hurston, a carpenter and 
Baptist preacher, and Lucy Potts Hurston, 
a former schoolteacher. 

September 1917- Attends Morgan Academy in Baltimore, 
June 1918 completing the high school requirements. 

Summer 1918 Works as a waitress in a nightclub and a mani- 
curist in a black-owned barbershop that serves 
only whites, 

1918- 19 Attends Howard Prep School, Washington, 

DC 

1919- 24 Attends Howard University; receives an asso- 

ciate degree in 1920, 



1921 



Publishes her first story, "John Redding Goes 
to Sea * in the Stylus, the campus literary 
society's magazine. 



212 flr Chronology 

December 1924 Publishes "Drenched in Light,* a short story, 
in Opportunity. 

1925 Submits a story, "Spunk," and a play, Color 
Struck^ to Opportunity's literary contest. Both 
win second-place awards; publishes "Spunk" 
in the June number 



1925-27 Attends Barnard College, studying anthropol- 
ogy with Franz Boas. 

1926 Begins field work for Boas in Harlem. 

January 1926 Publishes "John Redding Goes to Sea" 
in Opportunity. 

Summer 1926 Organizes Pin?/ with Langston Hughes 

and Wallace Thurman; they publish only one 
issue, in November 1926. The issue includes 
Hurston's "Sweat." 

August 1926 Publishes "Muttsy" in Opportunity 

September 1926 Publishes "Possum or Pig" in the Forum. 

September- Publishes "The EatonviUe Anthology" in 
November 1926 the Messenger. 

1927 Publishes The First One y a play, in Charles S. 
Johnson's Ebony and Topaz. 



February 1927 



Goes to Florida to collect folklore, 



Chronology 213 
May 19, 1927 Marries Herbert Sheen, 

September 1927 First visits Mrs, Rnfas Osgood Mason, seeking 
patronage- 

October 1927 Publishes an account of the biack settlement 
at St- Augustine, Florida, in the Journal of 
Negro History; also in this issue; "Cudjo's 
Own Story of the Last African Slaver" 

December 1927 Signs a contract with Mason, enabling her to 
return to the South to collect folklore, 

1928 Satirized as "Sweetie Mae Carr" in Wallace 
Thurman's novel abou t the Harlem Renais- 
sance Infants of the Spring; receives 
a bachelor of arts degree from Barnard- 
January 1928 Relations with Sheen break off 

May 1928 Publishes "How It Feels to Be Colored Me" 
in the World Tomorrow. 

1930-32 Organizes the Md notes that become 

May-June 1930 Works on the play Mule Bone with 
LangstxHi Hughes. 



1931 



Publishes "Hoodoo in America" in the 
Journal of American Folklore. 



214 J&p Chronology 



February 1931. Breaks with Langston Hughes over the 
authorship of Mule Bone. 

July 7, 1931 Divorces Sheen, 

September 1931 Writes for a theatrical revue called Fast and 
Furious* 

January 1932 Writes and stages a theatrical revue called 

The Great Day y first performed on January 10 
on Broadway at the John Golden Theatre; 
works with the creative literature department 
of Rollins College, Winter Park, Florida, to 
produce a concert program of Negro music, 

1933 Writes "The Fiery Chariot," 

January 1933 Stages From Sun to Sun (a version of Great 
Day) at Rollins College, 

August 1933 Publishes "The Gilded Six-Bits" in Story. 

1934 Publishes six essays in Nancy Cunard's anthol- 
ogy, Negro. 

January 1934 Goes to Bethune-Cookman College to estab- 
lish a school of dramatic arts "based on pure 
Negro expression," 



May 1934 



Publishes Jonahs Gourd Yim> originally titled 
$W ^%8^i it is a Book-of the-Month Club 
selection. 



September 1934 
November 1934 
January 1935 

August 1935 

October 1935 
March 1936 

April- 
September 1936 

September™ 
March 1937 

May 1937 

September 1937 



Chronology *fi^ 215 

Publishes "The Fire and the Cloud" in the 
Challenge, 

Singing Steel (a version of Great Day) per- 
formed in Chicago. 

Makes an abortive attempt to study for a 
Ph.D in anthropology at Columbia University 
on a fellowship from the Rmenwald Founda- 
tion. In feet, she seldom attends classes. 

Joins the WPA Federal Theatre Project as a 
"dramatic coach." 

Mules and Men published. 

Awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship to study 
West Indian Obeah practices. 

In Jamaica. 



In Haiti; writes Their Eyes Were Watching 
God in seven weeks. 

Returns to Haiti on a renewed Guggenheim, 

Returns to the United States; Their Eyes Were 
Watching God published, September 18. 



February- 
March 1938 



Writes Tell My Horse; it is published the 
same year. 



216 <4BP Chronology 

April 1938 Joins the Federal Writers Project in Florida to 
work on The Florida Negro. 

1939 Publishes "Now Take Noses' 1 in Cordially 
Tours. 

June 1939 Receives an honorary Doctor of Letters 
degree from Morgan State College, 

June 27, 1939 Marries Albert Price III in Florida, 

Summer 1939 Hired as a drama instructor by North Car- 
olina College for Negroes at Durham; meets 
Paul Green, professor of drama, at the Uni- 
versity of North Carolina, 

November 1939 Moses, Man of the Mountain published, 

February 1940 Files for divorce from Price, though the two 
are reconciled briefly 

Summer 1940 Makes a folkiore-collecting trip to South Car- 
olina, 

Spring-July 1941 Writes Dust Tracks on a Road. 

July 1941 Publishes "Cock Robin, Eeale Street" in the 
Southern Literary Messenger. 



October 1941- Works as a story consultant at Paramount 
January 1942 Pictures, 



Chronology 217 

July 1942 Publishes ^Story in Harlem Slang" tn the 
American Mercury. 

September 5 > Publishes a profile of Lawrence Silas in the 
1942 Saturday Evening Post. 

November 1942 Dust Tracks on a Road published. 

February 1943 Awarded the Anbfield Wolf Book Award in 
Race Relations for Dust Tracks; on the cover 
of the Saturday Review. 

March 1943 Receives Howard University's Distinguished 
Alumni Award, 

May 1943 Publishes "The 'Pet Negro* Syndrome" in 
the American Mercury, 

November 1943 Divorce from Price granted, 

June 1944 Publishes "My Most Humiliating Jim Crow 
Experience" in the Negro Digest. 

1945 Writes Mrs, Doctor; it is rejected by Lippincott. 

March 1945 Publishes "The Rise of the Begging Joints" in 
the American Mercury. 

December 1945 Publishes "Crazy for This Democracy" in the 
Negro Digest. 



218 Jfr Chronology 

1947 Publishes a review of Robert Tailanfs Voodoo 
in New Orleans in the Journal of American 
Folklore. 

May 1947 Goes to British Honduras to research black 
communities in Central America; writes Ser- 
aph on the Suwanee; stays in Honduras until 
March 1948. 

September 1948 Falsely accused of molesting a tenyearoid 
boy and arrested; case finally dismissed in 
March 1949. 

October 1948 Seraph on the Suwanee published. 

March 1950 Publishes "Conscience of the Court" tn the 
Saturday Evening Post> while working as a 
maid in Bjvo Island, Florida. 

April 1950 Publishes "What White Publishers Won't 
Print" tn the Saturday Evening Post. 

November I960 Publishes "I Saw Negro Votes Peddled" tn 
the American Legion magazine. 

Winter 1950-51 Moves to Belle Glade, Florida. 

June 1951 Publishes "Why the Negro Won't Buy Com- 
monism* in the American Legion magazine. 



December 8 , 
1951 



Publishes "A Negro Voter Sizes Up Taft" 
in the Saturday Evening Post. 



Chronology tfr 219 



1952 Hired by the Pittsburgh Courier to cover the 
Ruby McColium case. 

May 1956 Receives an award for "education and 
human relations" at Bethune-Cookman 
College. 

June 1956 Works as a librarian at Patrick Air Force Base 
in Florida; fired in 1957. 

1957-59 Writes a column on "Hoodoo and Black 
Magic" for the Fort Pierce Chronicle. 

1958 Works as a substitute teacher at Lincoln Park 
Academy, Fort Pierce. 

Early 1959 Suffers a stroke. 

October 1959 Forced to enter the St. l.Aicie County Welfare 
Home. 

January 28, 1960 Dies in the St. Ijacie County Weliare Home 
of "hypertensive heart disease"; buried to an 
unmarked grave in the Garden of Heavenly 
Rest, Fort Pierce. 

August 1973 Alice Walker discovers and marks Hurston's 
grave. 



March 1975 



Walker publishes "In Search of Zora Neale 
Hurston * in Ms., launching a Hurston revival.